August 11, 2016
Connecticut Green Guide

Power supplier loses second appeal of PURA fine

Third-party electricity supplier Liberty Power has lost its appeal of a $60,500 fine for illegal backbilling of customers.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) issued a final decision Tuesday upholding the fine and making minor wording changes to its April decision that set the amount of the civil penalty.

That April decision, which found that actions taken by Liberty after it realized it had underbilled several hundred customers violated state law, reduced Liberty's original fine of $294,000, issued in in May 2015.

PURA wrote in its decision this week that its commissioners' minds were not changed by Liberty's arguments, one of which concerned how quickly the company halted the backbilling.

PURA said the penalty was based on the fact that Liberty issued back bills to customers, not on the timing of its decision to discontinue the practice. PURA had also found that Liberty had not offered payment plans to affected customers, as required by law.

Liberty, which will also be required to reimburse Eversource for the time it spent on the matter, had hoped to have the fine further reduced or eliminated.

Its attorney, Jonathan Schaefer of Robinson+Cole, argued in an Aug. 5 filing that the fine was much higher than previous PURA fines against other companies involving similar violations and that the payment to Eversource should be based on 2014 tariffs, not current ones.

"[PURA] has seemingly discounted entirely the fact that despite having the legal right under its contracts to collect the under-billed sums from its commercial customers, as a good faith gesture, Liberty Power voluntarily abstained from collecting any of the under-billed sums from these customers – resulting in a loss to Liberty Power of over $500,000," Schaefer wrote. "Thus, if the proposed civil penalty remains as it is, the financial impact upon Liberty Power is tantamount to a $560,500 civil penalty."

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