HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) today moved to enhance civil penalties in a settlement agreement with Vista Energy Marketing LP (Vista), following an investigation into the company’s marketing and sales practices as a licensed electric generation supplier in Pennsylvania.
The Commission voted 5-0 to approve a motion by PUC Chair Gladys M. Brown that modifies a settlement between Vista and the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation & Enforcement (I&E) – increasing civil penalties to more than $50,000.
I&E initiated an informal investigation of Vista based on a referral by the Commission’s Office of Competitive Market Oversight, which became aware of Vista engaging a third-party vendor for door-to-door sales and marketing without a proper criminal background investigation being fully completed.
“The regulations in this instance are clear, permitting any person to conduct door-to-door marketing or sales activities without having obtained and reviewed a background check is a violation,” noted Chairman Brown in her motion.
In addition to the enhanced civil penalties, the company has agreed to:
Revise its marketing practices to potential customers; and
Ensure that its training programs for sales representatives remain compliant with PUC regulations.
Per the motion approved today, Vista and I&E have 45 days from issuance of the PUC’s Opinion and Order to indicate their intent to withdraw from the Settlement, or the modified settlement will become final.
The Commission’s requirement for background checks restricts a supplier from employing a person to conduct door-to-door sales and marketing activities until the supplier has obtained and reviewed a criminal history record from the Pennsylvania State Police (State Police) and from every other state in which the person resided for the last 12 months. The criminal background investigation must include checking the sex offender registry commonly referred to as the “Megan’s Law” registry maintained by the State Police.
Consumer Tips for Door-to-Door Energy Sales
Pennsylvania has clear rules regarding energy sales practices, and the PUC encourages consumers to understand these important protections.
Regulations require agents who conduct door-to-door activities, or appear at public events, to wear an identification badge, and consumers should immediately seek proper identification before engaging a door-to-door salesperson.
The identification badge must:
Accurately identify the supplier, its trade name and logo;
Display the agent’s photograph;
Display the agent’s full name;
Be prominently displayed; and
Display a customer-service phone number for the supplier.
Upon first contact with a customer, an agent must identify himself by name, the energy supplier he represents, and the reason for the visit.
The agent also must make clear that he is not working for - and is independent of - the customer’s local utility or any other supplier.
Additionally, the agent may not wear apparel or accessories – or even carry equipment containing branding elements – that suggests a relationship with a utility, government agency, or other supplier.
The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission balances the needs of consumers and utilities; ensures safe and reliable utility service at reasonable rates; protects the public interest; educates consumers to make independent and informed utility choices; furthers economic development; and fosters new technologies and competitive markets in an environmentally sound manner.
For recent news releases and video of select Commission proceedings or more information about the PUC, visit our website at www.puc.pa.gov. Follow the PUC on Twitter – @PA_PUC for all things utility. “Like” PAPowerSwitch on Facebook for easy access to information on electric shopping.
# # #
Docket No.: M-2018-2624484