Friday, January 31, 2020

PUC Enforcement Bureau Seeks $8.8 Million Penalty Against Texas Company For Deceptive Energy Marketing

On January 31, the PUC's Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement filed a formal complaint against Texas-based Verde Energy USA (Verde).
The I&E complaint is seeking more than $8.8 million in civil penalties for alleged violations of energy sales and marketing regulations and the Public Utility Code, along with the revocation of Verde’s license to provide electric generation services in Pennsylvania and refunds/reimbursement for consumers.
According to the I&E complaint, Verde allegedly engaged in misleading and deceptive telemarketing and door-to-door sales activity, including:
-- Unauthorized switching of customers’ energy suppliers (slamming) – including enrolling several customers who were deceased.
-- Threatening to disconnect customers’ services and/or using private customer information to falsely report power outages or falsely submit requests to disconnect service.
-- “Spoofing” phone numbers on telemarketing calls to falsely identify the call as coming from other utilities or local telephone numbers.
-- Agents misrepresenting themselves as representatives or employees of a utility, including allegations that agents wore clothing or provided documents that included a utility logo.
-- Falsely claiming to have been sent by a utility to check customers’ meters or rates/bills.
-- Refusing to leave after customers expressed no interest in the service.
-- Refusing to cancel enrollments after customers complained or brought deceptive acts to Verde’s attention.
-- Claiming that customers’ current electric generation supplier was going out of business, bankrupt or not providing service.
-- Suggesting that customers were required to switch or choose Verde.
-- Representing that the customers’ current electric generation supplier was purchased by or merged with Verde.
-- Providing false and misleading information about the customers’ contracts or rates with their current electric generation suppliers.
-- Misrepresenting that Verde is a discount program.
-- Making misleading claims about potential savings.
Collectively, the I&E complaint alleges nearly 9,000 violations of energy marketing regulations or other sections of the public utility code-- including 339 customer accounts impacted by deceptive telemarketing or door-to-door activities and 3,922 incidents where Verde representatives allegedly used confidential customer information to access or create an online customer account without the customers’ consent or authorization. 
Verde has 20 days from the date the complaint was served to file an answer to the I&E complaint. 
Visit the PUC’s Your Electric Rights & Protections webpage to learn your rights when shopping for an electric provider.
[Posted: January 31, 2020]   PA Environment Digest

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