Connecticut utility regulators have approved a more stringent set of marketing standards governing third-party electric suppliers.
The state’s Public Utilities Regulatory Authority on Wednesday issued its 42-page final decision regarding the marketing rules. Acting Consumer Counsel Rich Sobolewski, whose office represented ratepayers’ interests in the case, said the PURA ruling in the matter “is the culmination of years of hard work.”
“Once these marketing standards are fully implemented, Connecticut consumers will be more protected from duplicitous marketing tactics and third-party suppliers who engage in such activity will be more accountable than ever before,” Sobolewski said in a statement.
Wednesday’s ruling came out of a six-year-long proceeding that was ordered by the General Assembly in 2014. Andrew Minikowski, the Office of Consumer Counsel attorney who oversaw the agency’s efforts in the proceeding, was still in law school when the process started.
Minikowski said at one point about a year into the process, PURA officials decided to start from scratch in terms of developing new marketing standards for third-party providers “in order come up with something that more accurately reflected the consumer experience.”
“Connecticut consumers now enjoy the most comprehensive consumer protections in the entire country,” he said. “The biggest changes are in the back end compliance.
“Once again, Connecticut has demonstrated its leadership in safeguarding consumers from unscrupulous conduct,” Minikowski said. “All those phone conversations and door-to-door marketing visits have to be recorded and kept for three years. Regulators will now be able to verify what really did occur between the marketer and the customer; in the past, it was reduced to a he said, she said type of thing.”
In addition, Minikowski said the new standards “really lay out the kind of things that marketers need to say in a conversation with potential customers.”
The new marketing rules for third-party electric providers go in to effect Aug. 6, he said. Other requirements for third-party electric marketers include:
- Outfit all door-to-door sales agents with GPS tracking technology.
- Display accurate caller and area code caller identification information on all telesales calls.
- Disclose that third-party suppliers are not affiliated with an electric distribution company or with a state program.
- Respond to all customer complaints within three days.
Tracy McCormick, executive director of the Retail Energy Supply Association, a Pennsylvania-based trade group that advocates for competitive retail energy markets, said Thursday that the organization played an active role in PURA’s third-party electric provider proceedings.
“RESA is looking forward to moving the market forward in Connecticut and will do so under these new rules,” McCormick said.
The third-party residential electric market debuted in Connecticut in 2000 and is part of a larger electric utility deregulation that proponents promised would yield savings on customers’ energy bills. With it, consumers are able to choose from a variety of third-party power suppliers or let the state’s electric distribution companies continue to buy electricity for customers, as they had prior to deregulation.