Maryland Energy Gas and Electric was a monopoly that provided electric service throughout central Maryland and other areas. In July, Vistra Energy purchased the parent company, Crius Energy Trust. Vistra is committed to doing business in an ethical and fair manner. It is committed to safeguarding the public by doing business in an honest and transparent way.
The Maryland Legislature passed the Natural Gas Supplier Licensing and Consumer Protection Act of 2000 which replaced a 90-year old guarded monopoly regime. It also granted the Public Service Commission to regulate gas companies and electric companies. As part of the process, gas companies were assigned geographical areas of the State to operate within. Electric companies were also able to operate in certain regions as controlled Monopolies. However, they were allowed to compete in other areas.
A task force was created to study the subject of retail electric restructuring in the State. The General Assembly was to adopt the recommendations of this task force. In the course of the process, the PSC began working with utilities to diversify their business operations. A number of electric and gas companies raised questions about the amount of regulation required. They also complained that consumers were charged higher prices than other utilities. The PSC has decided that these complaints would be referred to administrative law judges, who will then hold hearings. These hearings are expected to be held in the spring.
In October of 2011 in October 2011, the Maryland Office of People’s Counsel (OPC), released a report on energy suppliers in Maryland. The report found that residents pay more for electricity than for other utilities. The report also found that energy salespeople contract customers with high prices and severe cancellation penalties.
The complaint, filed by the Office of People’s Counsel, claims that Direct Energy agents failed to explain the terms of the contract. They also failed to disclose that the contracts could be cancelled. Cancellation penalties up to $200 were incorporated into the contracts. Those penalties were “onerous” and “extortion,” according to the complaint. Direct Energy officials refute these allegations.
The complaint also claims that Maryland Gas and Electric fraudulently claimed to have signed contracts with customers. The company’s representatives, according to the complaint “failed to explain the sales intent.” The complaint states that Direct Energy agents did not provide the contract’s terms in writing. In addition, the complaint states that Maryland Gas and Electric agents did not disclose that the contract was signed through a third-party sales agent. The complaint also alleges that Direct Energy agents failed to declare themselves salespersons.
The complaints are largely due to door-to-door sales. The Office of People’s Counsel asserts that certain energy companies are attempting to prey on consumers by providing free electricity and then raising prices. The Office of People’s Counsel also claims that energy salespeople are trying to convince customers to sign contracts by claiming to be employed by utility companies that are regulated. It also claims that identity theft has taken place.