September 20, 2018

PURA hits energy supplier with $1.5 million fine, suspension

State regulators have fined Liberty Power $1.5 million and barred it from accepting new Connecticut customers for six months.

Following an investigation prompted by customer complaints, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) found that the third-party energy supplier had enrolled utility customers in contracts without their approval, used deceptive or misleading sales tactics on the phone or during door-to-door sales, and issued more than 26,000 contracts containing early termination fees that were double the legal limit of $50.

PURA listened to recorded calls with prospective customers in which Liberty employees misrepresented rates and told them they must choose a supplier, which is untrue, and omitted or misrepresented required information about standard service rates.

Violations took place over a "multi-year" time span, PURA said.

"Liberty often does not meet the most basic standard of stating that its marketing is from Liberty," PURA wrote in its Sept. 12 decision. "In some calls, the customer never hears Liberty's name, an undeniable violation of the law."

Energy suppliers are required by state law to identify themselves to prospective customers and to state they don't represent a utility company.

Liberty's fine comes shortly after PURA hit another supplier, Spark Energy, with its second large fine this year.

Liberty had 2017 Connecticut revenue of $30.4 million. The $1.5 million penalty is relatively large, but PURA has issued bigger fines.

Liberty will be allowed to start enrolling new customers again on March 13, 2019. PURA will require the company to maintain full audio recordings of all marketing calls and to produce them on PURA's request for potential audits for one year.

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