June 22, 2018
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Maine’s biggest electricity reseller allowed to keep operating in New York

By Darren Fishell, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — New York regulators will allow the owner of Maine’s largest retail electricity sales company to continue operating thereafter increasing internal oversight of its marketing practices.

The New York State Department of Public Service said it won’t stop Electricity Maine owner Spark Energy from signing up new customers in the state.

Regulators in January notified the company that they were considering such a ban, possibly barring the company from doing business entirely because of customer complaints about “slamming,” or switching customers to Spark without clear consent.

In an order issued Friday, New York regulators said they would allow Spark to continue operating in the state as long as it abided by improvements the company proposed during the case.

The company had argued that the slamming allegations from regulators were overstated and that part of regulators’ initial filing was actually pulled from a complaint against another company.

The company’s improvements include creating a compliance department that will oversee a training and certification programs for vendors it uses to enroll customers.

New York’s commission has tried in various ways to crack down on retail suppliers after its investigation of the industry uncovered rampant over-charging. A Bangor Daily News investigation found it’s happening here, too.

[ Mainers spent $50 million they didn’t need to on electricity]

Retail electricity companies, or “competitive electricity providers” like Electricity Maine, sell only electricity supply, which is billed through utilities such as Central Maine Power Co. and Emera Maine. But the utilities and electricity sellers are separate.

If a residential customer does not sign a contract with a retail supplier, they get what’s called the standard offer, a fixed price for electricity set every year through bidding at the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Maine lawmakers on Tuesday sent a bill to Gov. Paul LePage including new consumer protections for retail electricity companies.

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