September 11, 2018

Spark Energy hit with second fine

HBJ File Photo
HBJ File Photo
Overhead power lines.

For the second time this year, Connecticut regulators have levied a six-figure fine against electricity marketer Spark Energy for bad behavior.

The latest $750,000 civil fine, issued by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) on Sept. 5, was in connection with pre-recorded phone calls Spark's subcontractor made to Eversource customers between May and June of 2017, according to a filing.

PURA deemed the language used in the call to be deceptive and in violation of several state statutes related to marketing and solicitations by third-party energy suppliers.

When contacting prospective customers, suppliers are required to identify themselves and make certain other disclosures.

PURA determined that a reasonable person could infer that Spark's marketing call was instead coming from Eversource and that Spark had not directly trained its subcontractor as required.

According to PURA, the recording stated the following:

"Hello, Thank you for being a valuable customer of Eversource. This call is being recorded for quality assurance. If you have not missed any payments from last six months...you can get up to 15 percent discount for next 12 months. To check your eligibility, Press 1, to see other promotions Press 2, to talk to a representative Press 0. Thank You!"

"We don't comment on matters pending in front of the regulatory commissions in the states in which we operate," Spark said Tuesday.

The company, which according to PURA booked gross revenue of $41.7 million in Connecticut in 2017, has until later this month to request a hearing, should it wish to contest the fine.

In March, PURA fined Spark $900,000 after customers, including Sen. Len Suzio (R-Meriden) complained that their utility bills displayed an inaccurate rate. PURA determined that Spark had not provided the rate information to the utility companies in a timely manner.

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