OEB Proposes New Rules for Electricity Retailers and Gas Marketers
On October 5, 2015, the OEB issued a Notice of Proposal setting out proposed new rules that will apply to electricity retailers and gas marketers in Ontario. These 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.
In previous posts, we have explained the recommendations in the OEB's Report, and have described the proposed changes to the ECPA set out in Bill 112 and amended Regulations that are intended to address those recommendations.
The OEB's proposed new rules address changes in relevant OEB Codes to business practices and requirements for electricity retailers and gas marketers. The most notable of these new rules are:
- Electricity retailers and gas marketers will have to use standardized headings in consumer contracts, and a consultation will be initiated to move towards standardized contracts.
- Electricity and gas distributors will be required to ensure that distributor consolidated bills indicate in capital letters where the consumer's electricity or gas supply is being provided under contract with a retailer or marketer. The OEB has invited interested parties to explain if further on-bill disclosure is appropriate.
- Electricity retailers and gas marketers will be required to provide an OEB-approved "tip sheet" to consumers when engaged in door-to-door marketing activities (which are expected to continue, even if door-to-door sales are prohibited). The "tip sheet" will contain "plain language" information intended to help the consumer evaluate whether a retail energy contract is appropriate for them.
The proposed new rules are not contingent upon the Ontario Government passing and enacting Bill 112. The OEB's Notice of Proposal indicates that there will be further changes to relevant Codes, if and when Bill 112 is passed and enacted.
The OEB invited comments on the proposed new rules. As of October 27th, comments had been submitted by 17 different parties, including gas and electric distributors, marketers and a consumer group. The comments set out a variety of suggested changes. A common theme, at least among marketers, is that the implementation of any changes should await the passage of Bill 112.
Also to be expected in coming months and years, according to the OEB, is the implementation of a comparative pricing website showing relevant information (including complaints data) for consumers, and consultations on additional consumer protection measures for low-income consumers and on whether retailers and marketers should be required to enter into hedging arrangements to minimize their risks.