OEB Mandates New Standard Contract Terms and Verification Calls For Electricity and Gas Retailers
In early December 2016, the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) issued two Notices (here and here) confirming new rules and requirements that will apply to electricity retailers and gas marketers in Ontario. As per our earlier post discussing the OEB's draft versions of these documents, the new rules are intended to implement recommendations that were set out in the OEB's June 2015 report to the Minister of Energy, Consumers Come First: A Report of the Ontario Energy Board on the Effectiveness of the Energy Consumer Protection Act, 2010. The new rules are also intended to reflect and implement the changes to the Energy Consumer Protection Act (ECPA) that were enacted through Bill 112. The updated ECPA (including changes to the applicable Regulation) will come into force on January 1, 2017.
Some of the notable items in the Board's recent Notices include:
- Notwithstanding widespread concerns expressed by market participants, electricity retailers and gas marketers will have to use standardized plain language terms and conditions in consumer contracts. The OEB's standard form of a Contract to Buy Electricity and Natural Gas for a Home is to be adapted depending on the circumstances of the transaction. Examples of the various forms of standard contracts mandated by the OEB can be found here.
- Where applicable, electricity retailers and gas marketers will be required to have the customer's distributor send a standardized letter (in an OEB-prescribed form) to customers, indicating that the customer is switching to an energy retailer.
- Electricity retailers and gas marketers will be required to use revised forms of prescribed scripts when calling a consumer to confirm or renew a retailer contract (see here and here ).
- The OEB has not yet approved online verification of retailer contracts. The OEB indicates that it is considering the proposals received from stakeholders to assess what approach might be optimal in terms of new regulatory requirements to enable online verification while ensuring that consumers remain protected.
- The OEB's new requirements come into effect on January 1, 2017.