ESCO Business Practices - DC Public Service Commission Hearing, 7/12

The Washington D.C. Public Service Commission today held a hearing - GD 117, "for an investigation into the business practices of alternative energy suppliers in the District of Columbia".

The Commission has received 335 complaints since January 2013 regarding claims of "slamming" and "cramming" by some of the 121 suppliers of electricity in the DC region. Slamming refers to the practice of switching your electricity provider to another provider without a customer's consent, and cramming refers to the practice of placing unauthorized, misleading, or deceptive charged on your electricity bill.

Testimony from about 40 customers and customer groups' legal representatives highlighted numerous accounts of highly questionable, unethical, and possibly illegal marketing (Public Service Commission code explicitly dictates the forms of energy marketing that are, and are not allowed) tactics among alternative energy suppliers in the DC region.

Many customers testified to being solicited by purported PEPCO representatives (via phone and door-to-door salesmen), offering between a 15-20% reduction in their monthly electricity bill. Many (1) were not given the three day cancellation period in which they are free to change their mind, (2) were not required to physically sign any document (either through electronic signature or by hand), and/or (3) signed on with an alternative energy provider that is not officially licensed with the PSC.

Possibly solutions referenced by the Commissioner and her colleagues included expanding recording practices of energy providers' training sessions and customer engagements. While the Commission does not regulate prices, it has the authority to regulate business practices, and institute/revoke licenses.

This hearing itself was not the investigation - it was a hearing for Commissioner Kane and her colleagues to hear personal accounts from the community that has put forward a petition for investigation.


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