Following complaints about spiking electrical energy payments over the previous couple of weeks, Maine regulators on Thursday launched an investigation into Electrical energy Maine, whose charges greater than doubled in January.
The Maine Public Utilities Fee stated some prospects of Electrical energy Maine, the most important competitive-energy supplier within the state, noticed fastened charges for his or her electrical energy provide finish and swap to a variable charge of 39 cents per kilowatt hour or extra — the very best enhance within the state.
That is greater than double the provision charges for Central Maine Energy and Versant Energy’s Bangor Hydro District, which went up 49 % and 40 %, respectively, in January.
“In latest months, [the commission] has obtained over 170 calls from Electrical energy Maine prospects with inquiries and complaints about sudden and important invoice will increase with respect to their provide of electrical energy,” fee Chair Philip Bartlett stated.
He stated prospects might have signed up for a competitive-energy supplier years in the past and won’t keep in mind there’s a standard-offer possibility. Maine customers can both select the usual value set by aggressive bidding or a aggressive vitality supplier like Electrical energy Maine, which can or will not be cheaper.
Electrical energy Maine didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon the fee’s determination to research it.
Fee guidelines mandate competitive-energy suppliers present written discover to prospects of a change from a set to a variable charge. The discover should happen two occasions between 30 and 60 calendar days prematurely of a renewal of service. All three commissioners supported a proper investigation into Electrical energy Maine’s notification practices and whether or not the corporate was in full compliance with laws in Maine.
Customers ought to contact the fee in the event that they don’t suppose they acquired correct discover and the fee will look into it, Bartlett stated. He stated they’ve obtained complaints a couple of lack of notices. The fee has broad investigative powers and has investigated competitive-energy suppliers, together with Electrical energy Maine, previously.
“If customers didn’t get the suitable discover, they will get a refund,” he stated.
Electrical energy Maine, which is owned by multi-state pure gasoline and electrical energy provider Spark Power of Texas, stated it solely provides fixed-term contracts for brand spanking new enrollments and renewals. Prospects whose contracts finish can renew them on one other fixed-term foundation or pay month-to-month, stated Kira Jordan, spokesperson at Spark Power.
Electrical energy Maine additionally ran afoul of the fee two years in the past when it was fined $500,000 for false and misleading advertising and marketing made by its gross sales brokers throughout door-to-door campaigns in late 2017 to 2018. The effective was the very best administrative penalty the fee might give out.
The fee additionally completely revoked the corporate’s skill to have interaction in door-to-door advertising and marketing and revoked for one 12 months any residential advertising and marketing actions in Maine by way of phone, web or another means.
The corporate additionally was ordered to offer current prospects enrolled via door-to-door advertising and marketing a written discover of the fee’s ruling and of a possibility to switch to plain provide service with out an early termination payment.
A separate federal class-action lawsuit in opposition to Electrical energy Maine’s mother or father settled in 2020 additionally alleged fraud and misleading advertising and marketing practices that promised preliminary charges decrease than the usual provide that later elevated sharply.
The case alleged that between 2011 and 2014, Electrical energy Maine enrolled almost 200,000 households and small companies in its electricity-supply companies with the promise of considerable price financial savings. The settlement created a $14 million fund to pay out to about 43,000 prospects with legitimate claims.