Conn. AG wants probe into Energy Plus Holdings

Bryan Cohen Jul. 27, 2012, 1:19pm


HARTFORD, Conn. (Legal Newsline) - Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen and Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz jointly petitioned the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority on Thursday.

Jepsen and Katz requested that PURA look into the conduct and manner of operation of Energy Plus Holdings LLC after receiving multiple consumer complaints. Jepsen's office reviewed company solicitation and marketing materials that appear to demonstrate a pattern of deception.

"Under state law, electric suppliers must provide clear and conspicuous statements to customers about the rates they will be paying, including circumstances under which the rate may change," Jepsen said.

"Failure to do so may be a violation of the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act. In this case, the electric supplier may have made deceptive marketing claims that their prices were comparable to their competitors and to prevailing market rates. Customers thought they were getting a competitive rate, but were later surprised to find that, in some instances, they were actually paying as much as twice the market rate."

The petition requests that PURA open a proceeding to look into the allegations and to consider imposing fines and terminating Energy Plus's license as an electric supplier if the allegations are proven.

In addition, the petition requests that PURA consider new regulations that would require electric utilities to disclose in a prominent location on bills the standard service rate and relative savings or added costs incurred by signing up for a competitive supplier.

The complaints made to Jepsen's office about Energy Plus allegedly demonstrate an effort on the part of the electric supplier to trick possible customers into enrolling.

Energy Plus offers rewards programs in its solicitations that appear to offer consumers benefits in addition to competitive electricity prices that could save consumers money. Customers who sign with Energy Plus, however, could actually end up paying rates much higher than the ones charged by other suppliers or the standard rate of service, Jepsen says.

Energy Plus gives consumers a one-month promotional rate in Connecticut that is slightly higher than the standard service rates from United Illuminating and Connecticut Light and Power. After the first month, the promotional rate changes to a monthly variable price that is allegedly much higher, and sometimes double, the standard rate of service or the prevailing rates of the competitive market.

Some complaints allege the company's refusal to disclose to possible customers the variable rate the company was charging, making it impossible for customers to protect themselves prior to enrollment. This allegedly forced consumers to pay the company's higher rate.

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