PORTLAND, Maine — Two former customers of Electricity Maine have sued the power seller and its founders in a proposed class action covering thousands of customers they claim were lured by false advertising into electricity contracts for their homes.
Katherine Veilleux of Farmingdale and Jennifer Chon of Scarborough filed their suit in federal court on Friday, accusing the company’s founders of racketeering, unfair business practices and breach of contract, among other charges, for contracts it signed with customers between 2012 and early 2013.
“Between 2011 and 2014, Defendant Electricity Maine, LLC, enrolled nearly 200,000 Maine households and small businesses in its electricity-supply services with the promise of substantial cost savings,” the lawsuit claims. “Instead of decreasing consumers’ electricity bills, however, Electricity Maine, through Defendants’ fraud and deception, cost Maine ratepayers at least $35 million. This civil action seeks to remedy the significant financial harm caused by Defendants’ scheme.”
Ben Donahue, a Portland attorney for the plaintiffs, said the hope is to recover “as much [of the $35 million] as we can for Maine consumers.”
The lawsuit also lists Provider Power, Spark HoldCo LLC, as well as Kevin Dean and Emile Clavet, who are both controlling members of Provider Power. Until May 3, Electricity Maine was wholly owned by Provider Power, and on that date, Spark HoldCo purchased all outstanding membership interests in Electricity Maine from Provider Power, the lawsuit states.
“Defendants, including Electricity Maine, have made millions by gouging Mainers on their electricity bills,” Donahue said. “This lawsuit seeks to hold Defendants accountable and to stop this kind of misconduct from happening again.”
A spokesman for Spark said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
The 42-page lawsuit claims Electricity Maine violated the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act, were negligent and conducted negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation, as well as unjust enrichment and breach of contract.
The lawsuit follows an investigative report by the Bangor Daily News that found Electricity Maine and other competitive electricity providers charged customers about $50 million they did not need to spend on electricity from 2012 to 2015. In other words, that group of customers would have saved money if they had done nothing and stuck with the standard offer set annually by the state.
The lawsuit covers a small portion of that timeframe, focused on a period and a complaint regulators took notice of in 2013, when they began to investigate radio ads the company placed.
The ads promised to beat the standard offer price at a time when the company, in fact, did not beat the standard offer. The company settled the issue with a promise to send a new notice to customers about their rates and an offer to end their contracts at no cost, within 21 days.
BDN writer Nok-Noi Ricker contributed to this report.