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Subject 515-7-10 NATURAL GAS MARKETERS' CUSTOMER ENROLLMENT PROCEDURES

Rule 515-7-10-.01 Commission Authority and Scope of Provisions

(1) The requirements of these rules shall serve as minimum standards that must be employed by marketers in enrolling customers and maintaining their accounts for the purpose of providing natural gas services.
(2) Notwithstanding any provision of the law to the contrary, any person selected by an EDC, a certificated marketer, or a regulated provider may perform billing and meter reading services on behalf of such entity without first becoming certificated in accordance with the provisions of O.C.G.A. § 46-4-153, provided that a certificated marketer or regulated provider also submits meter reading data so obtained to the EDC in a timely manner.

Rule 515-7-10-.02 Customer Enrollment

(1) An order change for commodity sales service or distribution service shall not be submitted to a customer's existing marketer (or to the EDC, if the customer has not yet selected a marketer) by a succeeding marketer or representative thereof unless and until such time as the existence of proper customer authorization to take such action is confirmed. For purposes of this Rule,"succeeding marketer" shall mean any marketer to whom a customer's account for commodity sales service or distribution service will been switched at such customer's request.
(2) The requisite confirmation shall be obtained by a succeeding marketer in at least one of the following manners:
(a) The succeeding marketer must obtain the customer's written authorization to effect such change utilizing a letter of agency that meets the requirements of Commission Rule Chapter 515-7-10-.04; or
(b) The succeeding marketer shall obtain the customer's verbal or electronic authorization to effect such change. All marketers electing to confirm sales verbally or electronically shall establish one or more toll-free numbers exclusively for that purpose. Calls placed to or from these numbers must connect a customer to a voice response unit or other similar device that will automatically record the origin of the number from which the call is placed, the type of service for which a change is requested, the marketer, regulated provider, or EDC from which the customer is presently receiving the service(s) for which a change is requested, the identity of the person requesting the change, information verifying the identity of the customer and the time and date on which a request for a change is made; or
(c) A qualified, independent third party has obtained the customer's verbal confirmation of authorization to submit the service change order, which confirmation is recorded by audio or electronic means that include the data and time of the transaction. The independent third party serving in this capacity shall confirm the change previously requested by use of appropriate verification data and such.

Independent third party verification shall:

(i) Be conducted by a live person and not a recording of any kind; and
(ii) Be conducted outside the presence of the marketer's sales representative; and
(iii) Should the consumer have a question; the verifying third party shall refer the customer back to the marketer's representative; or
(d) By any other verification procedures that may be specified by the Commission.
(3) Within seven (7) business days following confirmation by the EDC that a customer's service has been switched, the succeeding marketer shall send each new customer via first class mail or by the consumer preferred method of communication, enrollment materials that contain, at a minimum, the following information:
(a) A written acknowledgement confirming that an order has been placed by a particular customer on a specified date;
(b) The name of the marketer that the customer has requested to provide service and the date on which the service will commence with the marketer;
(c) The marketer's terms and conditions of service;
(d) The marketer's fixed or variable term agreement offered to the customers, including the published price in effect at the time the change of service was confirmed pursuant to Commission Rule 515-7-10-.02(2);
(e) The mailing address, telephone number and e-mail address where the customer can notify the marketer to rescind an agreement pursuant to Commission Rule 515-7-9-.05, and the type of confirmation the customer will receive to verify that the said agreement was cancelled;
(f) The address and telephone number of a customer service representative of the succeeding marketer to whom consumer complaints may be forwarded, as well as the mailing address, email address, and telephone number of the Commission's Consumer Affairs Office;
(g) A copy of disclosure statement as required by Commission Rule 515-7-9-.04.
(4) Any marketer that uses a person, firm, company, partnership, corporation, association or entity in the marketing or telemarketing of its services shall be held accountable for any and all actions in which said person, firm, company, partnership, corporation, association or entity engage on behalf of the marketer, including, but not limited to, the imposition of penalties for violation of these or other Commission rules.
(5) In the event that a marketer uses another entity to send customers invoices for services rendered, the name of the marketer that is actually providing the natural gas service, as the name appears on its certificate of authority, must be conspicuously listed on the bills, subject to space limitations.
(6) No marketer shall be authorized to change a consumer's name so as to create a "turn-on" in lieu of a switch.

Rule 515-7-10-.03 Retention of Records; Mandatory Disclosures That Must Be Made to a Customer When a Change in Marketer Is Requested

(1) All letters of agency, copies of enrollment materials, recordings or other evidence that a consumer either newly established or initiated a change in service shall be maintained by a marketer for at least nine (9) months from the date on which the customer's service began. Failure to maintain such records shall constitute prima facie evidence that consent from the customer was not obtained to establish or switch service.
(2) Any telemarketing or direct mail solicitations or confirmation cards sent on behalf of a marketer seeking to change a customer's service must include the following disclosures:
(a) Identification of the marketer soliciting the change;
(b) A statement that the purpose of the call or confirmation card is to solicit a change of the customer's commodity sales service or distribution service;
(c) A declaration that the customer's service cannot be changed unless and until confirmation of the requested change is received in accordance with these rules; and
(d) A description of any charge(s) that may be imposed on a customer by any party for processing any change(s) in the customer's service.
(3) A request for information by a customer shall not be considered a request for a change of marketer. A confirmation card, as described herein, requiring the customer to deny or cancel a service order, shall not be sent out with any information package related to a customer's request for information.
(4) A record of the marketer and consumer's agreement to the consumer preferred method of communication shall be kept by the marketer for at least nine (9) months from the date of such communication, unless the consumer preferred method of communication is mail. If a consumer has not designated a preferred method of communication, the default method of communication shall be mail. Failure to maintain such records shall constitute prima-facie evidence that the customer did not consent to such form of communication as their preferred.
(5) A record of the communications between the consumer and the marketer through the consumer's preferred method of communication shall be maintained by the marketer for at least nine (9) months from the date of such communications. Failure to maintain such records shall constitute prima-facie evidence that those communications never took place.

Rule 515-7-10-.04 Contents of Letter of Agency

(1) Any letter of agency utilized to confirm an order change for commodity sales service or distribution service shall meet the requirements specified herein.
(a) A letter of agency shall be a separate document or easily separable document for which the exclusive purpose is to direct a change in marketer. The letter of agency must be signed and dated by the customer requesting a change;
(b) The letter of agency shall not be combined with inducements of any kind that are contained on the same document;
(c) Notwithstanding the language contained in subparts (a) and (b) of this section, a letter of agency may be combined with checks that contain only the required letter of agency language prescribed in paragraph (d) of this section and the necessary information to make the check a negotiable instrument. Letters of agency contained in any such checks shall not include or otherwise reference any promotional language or information. Letters of agency contained in any such checks shall be set in easily readable, bold face type at least as large and as dark as any other size type on the check.
(d) At a minimum, a letter of agency must be printed in a size and readability equal to at least twelve (12) point Font and must contain clear and unambiguous language that confirms:
(i) The customer's billing name and address;
(ii) The customer's service address to which the letter of agency applies;
(iii) The decision to change from the customer's existing marketer or EDC to the succeeding marketer and the type(s) of service to be changed;
(iv) That the customer designates the succeeding marketer to act as the customer's agent for such change; and
(v) That the customer understands that any selection made by the customer may be subject to a charge for changing the customer's marketer and may involve a charge for changing back to the existing marketer or EDC.
(e) Letters of agency shall not suggest or require that a customer take any type of action in order to retain the customer's existing marketer EDC.
(f) If any portion of a letter of agency is translated into another language, all remaining portions of the letter of agency must be translated into that language. Every letter of agency must be translated into the same language as any promotional materials, oral descriptions, or instruments provided with the letter of agency.
(2) A letter of agency that does not conform to the requirements specified herein is invalid.
(3) The EDC shall notify a marketer of any switch request that failed to be processed or was rejected and provide a reason for the occurrence. Upon receipt of such notification, a marketer shall have up to three (3) business days to notify the affected customer.

Rule 515-7-10-.05 Investigation, Reporting and Customer Service

(1) For purposes of this Rule,"preferred marketer" shall mean a marketer from whom a customer's account for commodity sales service or distribution service has allegedly been switched without such customer's consent, and "unauthorized marketer" shall mean a marketer to whom a customer's account for commodity sales service or distribution service has allegedly been switched without such customer's consent. A customer shall report any change in natural gas service to his, her or its preferred marketer and the unauthorized marketer, and may also contact the Commission. Upon receiving such a report, the preferred marketer and the provider alleged to be an unauthorized marketer each shall investigate the customer's complaint. If these investigations fail to result in a determination as to whether a change in marketer was made pursuant to proper authorization, the Commission may be contacted by the preferred marketer to provide assistance.
(2) An unauthorized marketer shall initiate action to change back the customer to the preferred marketer or another marketer of the customer's choice within three (3) business days after a customer's request for such change.
(3) An unauthorized marketer shall be responsible for paying all charges resulting from unauthorized changes in service(s) including, without limitation, any switch fee or other applicable tariff charges of the EDC. If the unauthorized marketer has billed the customer for any such charges, the customer's account shall be credited for any such charges by the unauthorized marketer within thirty (30) days of the date the Commission determined the consumer was a victim of involuntary switching.
(4) A marketer that directly or indirectly engages in conduct that results in the involuntary switching of a customer from his, her or its preferred marketer (also known as "slamming") shall not be entitled to any remuneration for service(s) provided to that customer, and any such remuneration actually received by the unauthorized marketer shall be repaid to such customer within thirty (30) days of the date the Commission determined the customer was a victim of involuntary switching.
(5) Any marketer responsible for unauthorized changes of a customer's service provider shall maintain monthly records of the number of such changes and shall report such data to the Commission on a quarterly basis within forty-five (45) days following the end of the quarter.
(6) An unauthorized marketer shall not report to any credit-reporting agency monies alleged to be owed to it by a person that has been a victim of involuntary switching.
(7) Any marketer responsible for the involuntary switching of a customer's preferred marketer shall prepare and maintain monthly records of the number of instances in which such event occurred and shall report this data to the Commission, at least on a quarterly basis. The marketer shall make this report within forty-five (45) days after the end of a calendar quarter.
(8) As contemplated by this Rule, the phrase "involuntary switching" shall not be construed to encompass those situations in which customers are transferred to another marketer or marketers with the Commission's approval due to events that include, but are not limited to, bankruptcies and other authorized sales or transactions.

Rule 515-7-10-.06 Remedies and Sanctions

(1) Notwithstanding anything to the contrary that may be contained elsewhere in these rules, any other activity or conduct which is intended to mislead, deceive, confuse or perpetrate a fraud or unfair or deceptive act or practice, including, but not limited to, the inclusion in any customer's bill of unauthorized, misleading or deceptive charges, shall constitute cause for the Commission to invoke the penalties identified in Commission Rule Chapter 515-7-10-.06.
(2) In a situation in which a consumer has been subjected by a marketer to conduct alleged to be in violation of one or more provisions of this Commission Rule Chapter, the consumer shall notify the marketer in an effort to rectify the situation without the need for Commission intervention. A marketer shall use every reasonable means to resolve a customer complaint in order to prevent it from being brought to the Commission. If a consumer is unable to arrive at a solution with a marketer regarding such a dispute, the consumer has the right to file a complaint with the Commission. Should a customer enrollment issue be the subject of a Commission hearing at which it is found that the marketer was in violation of one or more of the Commission's rules and failed to use reasonable efforts to resolve the dispute, the Commission shall issue an order directing the marketer to provide the consumer with the appropriate refund, credit or remedy pursuant to this Commission Rule and pay the consumer $100, plus either $5 per day, accruing from the date the Commission notified the marketer it was investigating the dispute, that the consumer's situation was not rectified or an amount determined by Order of the Commission. At such a hearing, the marketer shall have the burden of proof to show that it was in compliance with the Commission's Rules. In addition to the foregoing sanctions, the Commission also may order a marketer to pay all expenses incurred by the agency as a result of having a hearing, including but not limited to, court reporter transcription charges; hearing officer fees; and an amount of money equal to that which the Commission expended in Staff time in investigating, hearing and adjudicating the complaint; and pay as contemplated in O.C.G.A. § 46-2-91 any and all penalties determined by the Commission to be appropriate in light of the circumstances presented. For purposes of Rule 515-7-10-.06(2), the term "consumer" shall means any retail purchaser (as that phrase is defined in O.C.G.A. § 46-4-152(15)) of natural gas.
(3) The penalties set forth in Commission Rule Chapter 515-7-10-.06 shall be in addition to those contemplated by any other provision of law, including, but not limited to, the "Fair Business Practices Act of 1975" O.C.G.A. § 10-1-390et seq.
(4) Each instance in which an employee, representative or agent of a marketer forges a customer's signature on a letter of agency or otherwise falsifies evidence of a customer service change order shall constitute a separate violation of this rule.
(5) Any marketer engaging in any abusive marketing and/or telemarketing practices shall be subject to the penalty provisions set forth in Commission Rule Chapter 515-7-10-.06. Abusive marketing and/or telemarketing practices shall include, but not be limited to:
(a) Threats, intimidation or the use of obscene language.
(b) Causing any telephone to ring or engaging any person in a telephone conversation, repeatedly or continuously with the intent to annoy, abuse or harass any person called at that number.
(c) Engaging in outbound telephone calls to a person's residence at any time other than between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. local time at the called person's residence, unless such person has consented to such calls prior to their initiation.
(6) Any marketer who violates the prohibition set out in 515-7-10-.05(6) shall be required by the Commission to pay such a consumer $1,000.00 for each such prohibited report.
(7) The provisions of Commission Rule 515-7-6-.04 shall apply to any disputed charges resulting from an alleged violation of Commission Rule 515-7-10.