Maine PUC Rejects Substantial Proposed Settlement
January 27, 2021
Earlier this month the Maine Public Utilities Commission rejected a stipulation filed by Electricity Maine, LLC and the Office of the Public Advocate that would have resolved door-to-door marketing compliance issues. The door-to-door marketing compliance issues were raised in the Commission’s Order to Show Cause issued in Docket No. 2010-00256 on July 24, 2018. The agreement reached in the stipulation by Electricity Maine and OPA provided that the company pay a $500,000 administrative penalty, contribute $150,000 to the OPA to fund customer education, permanently withdraw from door-to-door solicitation in Maine, cease outbound telemarking of Maine consumers for one year, and terms to ensure compliance with applicable regulatory requirements. The stipulation also provided that Electricity Maine allow its residential customers whose contracts originated from door-to-door marketing to terminate their contracts without an early termination fee.
In its consideration of the Stipulation, the Commission noted that its Staff issued an Examiners’ Report that concluded that Electricity Maine repeatedly made false and deceptive statements associated with its door-to-door marketing activities. The Examiners’ Report recommended, among other things, that the Commission revoke Electricity Maine’s license to operate as a competitive electricity provider following transfer of its customers to either an alternative provider or standard offer service. The Commission rejected the stipulation as it concluded that the result would not be in the public interest. In rejecting the stipulation, the Commission wrote:
As set forth in the OPA’s filings in the docket and as explained in the pending Examiners’ Report, following the hearing, the OPA sought a one-year license suspension and an administrative penalty of no less than $1 million. Under the terms of the proposed stipulation, there would be no suspension of Electricity Maine’s license to operate as a CEP, Electricity Maine would pay a significantly smaller administrative penalty, and Electricity Maine would pay an additional $150,000 to the OPA to fund customer education. Such an arrangement may result in a lack of confidence in the real or perceived motivations of the OPA in settlement, and thus the public interest would not be served.
The Commission also concluded that it does not have authority to approve a stipulation that directs funding to the OPA. The Commission’s Order directed that exceptions to the Examiners’ Report be filed on or before January 19, 2021. Maine Electricity requested (and was granted) an extension of time until January 26, 2021, to file the exceptions due to the complexity of the issues and the extraordinary relief recommended in the Examiners’ Report. While the Commission rejected the stipulation, it granted the parties the opportunity to file a revised stipulation no later than January 19, 2021.
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