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Wayne Independent - Honesdale, PA
  • Kane shocks electric companies

  • Attorney General Kathleen Kane recently announced that a joint complaint has been filed against five electric companies for deceptive marketing of rates.
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    Attorney General Kathleen Kane recently announced that a joint complaint has been filed against five electric companies for deceptive marketing of rates.
    The complaint has been filed by the Bureau of Consumer Protection (BCP) and the Office of Consumer Advocate and is in the hands of the Public Utility Commission (PUC).
    Five out of state electric generation suppliers are being accused of increasing electricity costs “as high as 300 percent” to consumers.
    They include Energy Services Providers Inc. d/b/a Pennsylvania Gas & Electric, IDT Energy Inc., Respond Power LLC, Hiko Energy LLC and Blue Pilot Energy LLC.
    "The core function of the Consumer Protection Bureau is to advocate for consumers and investigate fraud on their behalf,” said Kane in a release. “We received thousands of complaints from consumers who could not pay their excessively high bills.
    Those consumers were deceived and we are taking those who participated in the deception to task.”
    The five separate joint complaints that was filed before the PUC against the listed electric suppliers (EGS) requested relief from the PUC to include: restitution to the consumers, fines and penalties and to impose any and all sanctions on the five EGS’s that the PUC deems appropriate including suspension and/or revocation of the right to offer electrical supply to the consumers of Pennsylvania.
    According to the release, the joint complaint alleges the suppliers enticed consumers by promising “low or competitive” rates if the consumer switched suppliers.
    The actions also allege that the prices charged to customers were not reflective of the cost to serve residential electricity needs,” it said.
    Consumers were allegedly given copies of contracts and terms and conditions pages that didn't comply with the Telemarketer Registration Act.
    The Attorney General's Office received 42,603 phone calls and 7,551 consumer complaints regarding the increased prices, between February and mid-June.
    The Office of Consumer Advocate also received more than 3,000 contacts from consumers.
    The actions of these companies are accused of multiple violations of PUC's orders and regulations, the Public Utility Code, the Consumer Protection Law and the Telemarketer Registration Act.
    In the release, it explains the BCP found many consumers complained that their electricity supplier was switched without their consent.
    Page 2 of 2 - “The unauthorized switching of electricity suppliers is considered 'slamming' and is a violation of the PUC Regulations and Consumer Protection Act,” it states.
    Senior Deputy Attorney General John M. Abel and Assistant Consumer Advocate Candis A. Tunilo filed the joint complaint before the PUC.
    The Attorney General's Office said Monday that a separate joint complaint by Kane through the BCP, along with the Office of Consumer advocate before the PUC was filed against each of the five EGS.
    These five EGS were licensed by the PUC to offer electric supply services to the consumers of Pennsylvania as part of the so-called deregulation and restructuring of electric service in Pennsylvania,” they said.
    Getting refunded
    Whether consumers are entitled to refunds will have to be determined by the PUC legal process after the evidence is presented in the case.
    Consumers can file additional complaints directly with the PUC. Visit http://www.puc.state.pa.us/filing_resources/filing_complaints.aspx to learn more about filing complaints.
    For more information on the PUC visit http://www.puc.state.pa.us/.
    For a list of contacts at the PUC visit http://www.puc.state.pa.us/contact_us.aspx.
    What's next?
    On Monday, the Attorney General's Office said that the next step in the PUC adjudicatory process is like any other legal action.
    The five EGS’s will have 20 days to file answer to the joint complaint and/or preliminary objections to the complaint.
    The BCP will be litigating this case on behalf of the Attorney General Kane,” the Attorney General's Office said. “After an answer is filed by the Respondent EGS’s, the discovery phase of the case will begin which will not open to the public.
    However, any legal motions related to the discovery phase of the case will be on the public record and, of course, all the legal proceedings before the PUC will be on the public record also.”
     
     
     
     
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