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Delaware PSC Proposes Changes to Rules for Retail Electric Suppliers

The Delaware Public Service Commission (PSC) announced plans on December 15 to adopt changes to electric supplier marketing and certification rules under Regulation Docket 49.

To date, pending a public comment period, under Order No. 8830, the regulation has been marked up to show detailed revisions to a number of sections, including those related to contracts with customers and door-to-door marketing.

The commission staff reserves the right to review contracts for residential and small commercial customers, as well as to require changes “in order to make the contract consistent” with the revised rules.

Going forward, the commission proposes that all contracts must be written in “clear, plain language” and include the “explicit rates and terms and conditions for service,” as well as “a clear and conspicuous statement of duration of the contract.”

A “complete list of any other fees and the amount thereof” – including termination penalties, late fees, and interest charges – must be provided to customers along with a description of the specific conditions under which such fees can be imposed.

Termination rights have been clearly specified. The retail electric supplier must explain the precise conditions under which the company may terminate service and, at a minimum, must provide at least 30 days notice and any procedures necessary to maintain ongoing service.

When a new customer signs on, a document used to complete the transaction must include a means to identify the agent who completed the transaction and a notation indicating whether the contract was the result of a door-to-door sale, telemarketing, a written document completed and mailed to the supplier by the customer, or an electronic document completed and uploaded or emailed to the electric supplier.

For person-to-person and telemarketing solicitations, the agent of the electric supplier shall state that he or she is not working for and is independent of the customer’s electric distribution company. What’s more, any representative, or agent who solicits door-to-door at a residential dwelling shall only do so between the hours of 9 am and 8 pm – and must prominently display a photo identification card that shows the electric supplier’s business name and toll-free customer service number, as well as the full legal name of the solicitor. Such company agents must “promptly and courteously leave the premises upon request of any person and comply with a person’s request to be exempted from door-to-door sales.”

Retail electric suppliers are now required to obtain and review a criminal history record on each employee or agent who conducts sales and marketing activities and to check the sex offender registry maintained by the Delaware State Police.   The commission reserves the right to see a copy of documentation used in such customer transactions.

To ensure that there are no misrepresentative or deceptive practices, the PSC has proposed that “Solicitations, advertising, and marketing materials…that make statements concerning prices, terms, and conditions of service shall contain accurate information.”

Among the other provisions, the latest proposed rules state, “Verifiable authorization means a written signature, electronic signature, or an audio recording of the customer expressly authorizing a change in electric suppliers or the terms of electric supply service.”

It was unclear how such proposed written notice requirements would be implemented with respect to month-to-month or variable rates

The adopted proposed order appears to eliminate the rescission period, except for customers solicited through door-to-door marketing. The adopted proposed order proposes that suppliers engaged in door-to-door marketing may not misrepresent in any manner the customer’s right to rescind without penalty or fee within seven (7) calendar days from the day the EDC sends the confirmation letter

The adopted proposed order mandates that suppliers shall file updated marketing plans or sales methods with the PSC not fewer than five business days before using the plan or method in Delaware.

The commission encourages the public to submit written comments on or before February 8.  The PSC also will conduct a public evidentiary hearing on the new proposed regulations on February 23. Interested parties may review PSC Order No. 8830 and the proposed revised supplier rules in the January 2016 issue of the Delaware Register of Regulations.

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