The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) launched an investigation (Docket No. 15-0438) into the allegedly misleading and deceptive telemarketing practices of retail energy provider Sperian Energy on July 30.
“The investigation into Sperian follows a detailed ICC staff analysis of the company’s marketing and sales tactics that again and again have led to customer confusion and complaints,” said Commissioner Miguel del Valle. “The commission is determined to investigate and hold accountable companies that are potentially misleading customers about their utility bills.”
The ICC keeps a Complaint Scorecard to show retail electric suppliers’ rate of complaints filed by customers. Sperian has ranked in the lowest category, one star, for customer complaints throughout 2015.
In the analysis alluded to by Commissioner del Val, issued on July 20, the commission’s staff had identified significant violations of applicable Illinois law in the sales scripts, third party verification scripts, welcome letters and terms and conditions recently used by Sperian.
Specifically, the staff found that Sperian had not followed solicitation and verification disclosure requirements; failed to adhere to necessary minimum contract terms and conditions; and inadequately trained its retail electric supplier agents.
In light of these apparent breaches, ICC staff recommended that Sperian should be mandated to show cause why the commission should not exercise any or all of its powers of enforcement, including:
- Ordering Sperian to cease and desist, or correct any violation of Illinois law and regulations;
- Imposing financial penalties for violations of Illinois law and regulations; and
- Modifying, suspending or revoking Sperian’s certificate to operate in Illinois as an alternative retail electric supplier (ARES).
During the ICC investigation, Sperian will have the opportunity to address allegations of noncompliance before an administrative law judge, who will weigh the evidence and propose a ruling.
Potential action taken by the Commission for findings of violations or non-conformance may include:
- A cease and desist order or order to correct any violation of or non-conformance with the Public Utility Act. 2.
- Financial penalties up to $10,000 per occurrence of a violation or non-conformance with the Act, or up to $30,000 per day for violations or non-conformances that continue after the Commission issues a cease and desist order.
- Altering, modifying, revoking or suspending Sperian Energy’s designation as an energy supplier.
The Illinois Electric Service Customer Choice and Rate Relief Law of 1997 restructured the state’s electric service industry to allow customers a choice of electric suppliers. Sperian Energy is one of many suppliers licensed in Illinois that can sell directly to residential and commercial customers. The alternative energy supplier operates in multiple U.S. states, including California, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.