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PUC Approves Pennsylvania Gas & Electric Penalties For Deceptive Marketing

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PUC) has approved a $6.8 million settlement between the state and Pennsylvania Gas & Electric (PaG&E) for deceptive marketing practices in the winter of 2014.

The PUC adopted a joint motion to modify the settlement between PaG&E and the state attorney general's (AG) office and is seeking comments on the proposed penalties against the company. The motion  would require the AG to provide notice to customers who elect to receive payment from a refund pool.

The AG filed a complaint against PaG&E in June 2014, alleging that the the company misled customers with deceptive promises of savings, enrolled customers without authorization, mishandled customer complaints and charged different prices than were listed in customer disclosure statements.

PaG&E has already paid more than $4.5 million in refunds voluntarily. But it has been ordered to pay $2.3 million more in refunds, a $25,000 civil penalty and $100,000 to the state's electric distribution companies' hardship funds. The settlement also requires the company to make numerous modifications to its business practices related to product offerings, marketing, disclosure statements, training, customer service and compliance monitoring and reporting.

The AG's office said in 2014 that it received hundreds of calls and complaints from consumers regarding dramatic spikes in the cost of their electricity during the brutally cold winter. The AG ultimately filed legal action against IDT Energy Inc., PaG&E, Blue Pilot Energy, Resolve Power and Hiko Energy LLC. Some of those companies have reached settlements with the AG and PUC, while others are still waiting for approval (see Daily GPIDec. 29, 2015Dec. 4, 2015).

In unrelated business on Thursday, the PUC said it voted to investigate a proposed rate increase requested by UGI Utilities Inc. for its natural gas service. The company wants to increase annual revenues by $58.6 million. Under the proposal, an average UGI residential customer's bill would increase from $51.77 to $61.97.

The proposal is suspended until Oct. 19 and will be sent to the PUC's Office of Administrative Law Judge for a recommended decision or settlement. UGI provides natural gas service to about 387,919 customers in the eastern and central parts of the state.

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