Direct Access Fingerprinting, ‘Coming and Going’ Rules Set

By Published On: December 15, 2003

Corporate officers of energy service providers (ESPs) will need to be fingerprinted as part of expanded registration requirements approved on December 4 by the California Public Utilities Commission. Commissioners defeated a competing plan that would have allowed a broader number of ESP staff to be subject to fingerprinting. The expanded registration rules are mandated by AB 117, which in part redefined who can compete for energy-efficiency funds. ESPs serving agricultural and industrial customers will need to register with the CPUC within 120 days. Prior to the changes, only small ESPs needed to register and face fingerprinting. ?I find indiscriminate fingerprinting of all officers personally repugnant,? said commission president Michael Peevey, who crafted the approved decision, prior to the vote. On top of that, he wondered whether the practice could be considered a violation of civil liberties. The ESPs provide direct access to the commodity of electricity from a generator or other provider to companies that wish to avoid using utility services. Customers opting to use ESPs do so in the hopes of saving money. In the late 1990s, the commission saw fingerprinting as a way to weed out direct-access companies most likely to defraud customers, particularly small customers. At the time, retail consumers could opt for direct access, and a host of companies?from Amway to Enron?offered the service. The CPUC no longer allows small consumers that choice. As added protection for customers, large ESPs will need to indicate whether they are under investigation for civil and consumer law violations. But they may not need to post security deposits as Peevey called for in proposals on other ways to measure solvency. In other direct-access news, the commission clarified ?coming and going? rules adopted earlier this year for customers switching between ESPs and bundled service provided by utilities. On a split vote, the CPUC found that direct-access customers who switched back and forth between bundled service and new ESPs should pay exit fees.

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