Faced with the possibility of loosing its electric marketinglicense in New Jersey because of seedy marketing maneuvers,Sempra’s Energy America cut a deal with the state’s Board of PublicUtilities last week, agreeing to halt its marketing efforts for athree-week span, retrain its agents and stop all “unconscionablemarketing tactics.”

The consent agreement is expected to be signed by the BPUsometime this week. The division of Consumer Affairs was alsoinvolved in the proceedings. Under the terms of the deal, EnergyAmerica agreed to the three-week stoppage, make serious changes inits marketing materials, alter its training of new agents to allowthe BPU to supervise the process and retrain all 150 of its oldagents. When the marketer reenters the field, all switches must beperformed in a common language and the marketer must explain theswitching process more thoroughly.

The consent agreement allowed Energy America to avoid goingbefore the BPU in a full hearing in which its license to market inthe state could have been removed. “The parties had a preliminarymeeting, and I thought Energy America was headed toward a fullhearing for certain,” said Eric Hartsfield, a BPU spokesman. “Butthe morning after that meeting, all the lawyers were locked in aroom and when they came out they had this agreement in hand.”

“Today’s decision has established a process through which EnergyAmerica and state officials will develop a revised marketingprogram that we hope will be approved by both the BPU and the DCA,”said David Messer, president of Energy America. “This constructivedialogue and the process by which we reach an agreement is welcomedby Energy America and we are very pleased with this decision.”

According to the BPU, more than 350 complaints have been leviedagainst Energy America as it tries to sign electric customers in NewJersey’s newly-deregulated electric market (see Daily GPI, Dec. 13). So far, the marketer has signedup more than 40,000 customers since Sept. 17.

“I’d have to say they are the most complained-about company sofar,” said Hartsfield. “That is a direct result of them being oneof, if not the most aggressive marketers. The wrongdoings rangeacross the spectrum from lying about rebates, to pressuringresidential customers, to telling people that their utility isgoing out of business.”

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