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Connecticut approves marketing rules for electricity suppliers

By the end of the summer, third-party electric suppliers in Connecticut will have to adhere to new marketing standards meant to protect customers from deceptive practices.

The Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, or PURA, on May 6 approved marketing standards for companies that provide to customers an alternative to default standard service generation supply offered by electric distribution companies Eversource Energy and United Illuminating Co. Regulators and the state's consumer advocate said the requirements will allow for more informed and better-protected customers.

"PURA looks forward to seeing a greater emphasis on supplier accountability and a marked lessening of customer confusion in the third-party supplier market," PURA Chairman Marissa Gillett said in a statement.

The standards, among other things, require recording of telemarketing calls and door-to-door visits lasting at least 30 seconds and for those records to be kept for three years. All outbound telemarketing must also accurately show a supplier's name and local number on the recipient's caller ID. Suppliers also have to train and monitor marketers and self-report marketing violations to regulators. The standards further call on third-party suppliers to respond to consumer complaints within three business days and to disclose they are not affiliated with an electric distribution company or a state program.

Suppliers must comply with the standards by Aug. 6.

"Once these marketing standards are fully implemented, Connecticut consumers will be more protected from duplicitous marketing tactics and third-party suppliers who engage in such activity will be more accountable than ever before," Acting Consumer Counsel Richard Sobolewski said in a statement.

The proceeding dates back to a 2014 directive from state lawmakers that PURA should develop standards for suppliers for certain practices, such as the hiring and training of sales representatives, door-to-door sales and telemarketing. Regulators issued a decision in February 2015, but later agreed to reopen the matter following a request by electric suppliers and the state Office of Consumer Counsel. PURA has since worked to come up with new standards for suppliers to follow.

PURA said around 50 third-party electric suppliers operate across the state.

The Retail Energy Supply Association, which represents competitive providers, took part in the case to help develop the standards, Tracy McCormick, the group's executive director, said in an emailed statement. "RESA is looking forward to moving the market forward in Connecticut and will do so under these new rules," McCormick said. (PURA Docket No. 14-07-20RE01)