Energy supplier to quit Connecticut electric supplier market in $3M settlement resolving allegations it didn't tell customers about rate information




  • In Business
  • 2022-07-06 22:45:00Z
  • By Hartford Courant
 

A Norwalk energy firm will exit Connecticut's electric supplier market in a $3 million settlement resolving allegations it failed to publish money-saving rate information, state Attorney General William Tong and Consumer Counsel Claire Coleman said Wednesday.

Public Power, which was acquired by Vistra Group, a fund administrator and corporate service provider, failed to publish "next cycle rate" information, denying consumers the opportunity to switch to another supplier and avoid a rate increase, Tong and Coleman said.

As part of the agreement, Public Power and three related companies will exit the electric supplier market. A fourth company will exit the market in September. The state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority also was a party to the settlement.

Public Power and Vistra did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

Public Power withheld basic required rate information that consumers needed to make an informed choice, Tong said. Connecticut regulators gave the company an opportunity to correct that error, but it refused, he said.

"Consumers are entitled to timely and accurate information about electric rates," Coleman said. "Public Power failed to provide the required transparency to its customers."

Money from the settlement will be used to pay down accumulated, unpaid electric bills for hardship customers.

PURA discovered in 2018 that many third-party electric suppliers had failed to provide correctly "next cycle rate" information on customer bills that provides advance information about a rate change, and the opportunity to switch to a possibly lower-cost supplier.

Connecticut regulators and consumer protection officials have cracked down before on third-party electricity suppliers. In March 2020 electric suppliers were ordered to issue credits to about 100,000 customers as part of an investigation of rate violations. Credits issued by 22 third-party electric suppliers to ratepayers were the result of a decision by the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority following its investigation into amnesty for suppliers for the next cycle rate violations.

Third-party suppliers began business in Connecticut in response to markets that were deregulated in the late 1990s and early 2000s, allowing companies to compete with standard service offered by the state's two regulated electric utilities, Eversource and United Illuminating. Complaints mounted about aggressive door-to-door sales pitches, violations of state and federal "Do Not Call" lists and misleading advertisements.

The General Assembly and then-Gov. Dannel P. Malloy enacted tougher regulations in 2014.

Stephen Singer can be reached at ssinger@courant.com.

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