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PUCT Commissioner Thoughts

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Chm. Klein - October 2002 Issue of the Texas Retail Electric Scorecard

I recently asked Chairman Klein to share her thoughts on retail competition by responding to the following questions.

What is the single most important piece of wisdom you would share with the REPs regarding retail competition?

The most important piece of wisdom I would impart on REPs is that they focus their competitive efforts on not only price, but also on service quality and tailored product offerings. Many consumers switch based on the amount of monthly savings they can realize. However, many others will be more swayed by companies they feel are trustworthy and reliable. One way REPs can establish credibility in this evolving marketplace is to focus on providing their customers with timely and accurate bills; prompt and knowledgeable call center responses; and innovative services.

What is it that REPs are currently doing in the marketplace (from a retail perspective) that you believe is hindering competition?

I don't believe REPs are doing anything directly to frustrate or hinder competition. Foremost, I think this market is doing well in light of the fact that 1) it is still quite young; 2) it opened on the heels of the Enron fiasco; and 3) everyone has had to work hard to conquer the operational problems surrounding the transaction switching process. It's easy for consumers to associate the Enron fiasco with retail competition. But in fact, Enron had nothing to do with retail competition in Texas and everything to do with a corporation that had a warped sense of corporate governance and accounting ethics. Nonetheless, the effect is that consumer confidence has been jarred. Late and/or inaccurate billing only compounds the problem. Fortunately, we are gaining traction on the billing concerns and I expect the current operational issues will be resolved and will be transient.

What one thing do you wish the REP customer service staffs would do better?

Since January 2002, the PUC has received 1,006 complaints related to REP customer service. The large number of complaints is probably a function of customer service training. I would like to see REPs ensure that their customer service, and also marketing, representatives are thoroughly and frequently trained on the PUC customer protection rules. A solid knowledge base of the competitive market and customer rights and obligations will ensure that all consumers of every class have a positive experience when they interact with their REP. This adds greatly to the overall perception of competition and the benefits offered by this new marketplace in addition to reaffirming the REPs relationship with its customer.

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Com. Perlman - September 2002 Issue of the Texas Retail Electric Scorecard

I recently asked Commissioner Perlman to share some of his thoughts on retail competition by responding to the following questions.

What is the single most important piece of wisdom you would share with the REPs regarding retail competition?

I hope that the REPs would continue to work with the Commission to help educate residential customers on the benefits of retail competition. Our biggest challenge is to increase awareness of the Texas electric choice program. During the fall, we are beginning a major effort to let residential customers know about electric choice and to provide easy to understand information on the program. REPs can help the Commission raise awareness by working closely with us on customer education.

What is it that REPs are currently doing in the marketplace (from a retail perspective) that you believe is hindering competition?

I don't think that REPs are hindering competition in any particular way. I believe that if they are generally following the requirements of the Commission's customer protection rules, they are providing customers with the information required to choose a new provider and are avoiding many of the problems that existed in long distance deregulation.

What one thing do you wish the REP customer service staffs would do better?

I would ask your companies to work closely with our call center to provide rapid turnaround to customer complaints.

September 2003 Issue of the Texas Retail Electric Scorecard

I met with Commissioner Perlman during his last official day in office to ask him to share some parting thoughts on the Texas Retail Electric Market.

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight, is there anything you would have done differently in the Retail Electric Market?

We should have spent more time on the computer systems understanding the problems and formulating a clearer understanding of how this new market would work. We dug a hole for ourselves from which we have spent a tremendous amount of time digging out. Also, I think we should have opened the commercial and industrial market before residential, which would have allowed time for the computer systems to be tested in a “live” environment on a much smaller universe of transactions. While this would have delayed full-scale residential competition, in the long run, we may have been further ahead.

What do you think has been the biggest success to date in the Retail Electric Market?

The volume of load that has shifted from incumbent to competitive providers in the commercial and industrial markets. That proves that this market is viable. The success of competition should not be judged solely on the market share held by different companies, but rather on the number of customers exercising choice. I didn’t expect residential customer switching to happen overnight, it will take longer and would be helped tremendously if there were one more big, competitive player in the market.

What is the one thing that will worry you most out the Retail Electric Market after you leave the Commission?

Without question, that would be Wholesale Market Design. Although important, if not done correctly, you could optimize the market structure for wholesale while at the same time making it much more difficult for retailers to complete. There is also a huge potential to spend a lot of time and money and come up with the wrong solution. This issue will unfortunately shove other issues off the radar, and may delay necessary project improvements. The focus shouldn’t be on just trying to fix problems, but on moving forward as well.

 

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Com. Parsley - February 2003 Issue of the Texas Retail Electric Scorecard

I recently asked Commissioner Parsley to share her thoughts on retail competition by responding to the following questions.

What do you see as the most important area needing attention in the retail electric market?

The retail electric market has progressed in a steady and positive fashion since the start of retail competition in 2002. While there are several areas where minor adjustments could improve the evolving market, I think customer billing should continue to be a focus. The number of billing problems coming to the PUC’s attention has gone down over the past year, but they still comprise a large portion of customer complaints. The PUC will continue to monitor REPs’ ability to timely and accurately bill customers through performance measure reporting.

What insights would you like to share with REPs currently operating in the marketplace?

I believe active and viable REPs are a key component of a healthy market. It is an exciting time as the PUC works with market participants to refine the operational systems and maximize the benefits of electric choice for Texas consumers. I encourage REPs to not only be knowledgeable of the proceedings at the PUC, but to actively participate in those proceedings. In particular, a rulemaking project is now in progress (Project No. 27084) that will address many issues that are important to REPs, including billing, establishing new service, advertising, and door-to-door marketing. Now is the time for REPs to be monitoring these Commission proceedings and providing comments and other input into the rulemaking process. We value the experience and perspective that industry participants bring to the process.

What one thing do you wish REP customer service staffs would do better?

The main focus of REP representatives should be on customer service. REPs should adequately train and empower their service representatives to address customers’ concerns and complaints in accordance with applicable rules and procedures. REP customer service representatives should be well-educated about the PUC rules and procedures that are related to their job functions, and they should work closely with the PUC customer protection staff to quickly respond to complaints and problems when they arise. Finally, I especially encourage REPs to be active in providing information and assistance to customers in connection with available low-income services.

 

 

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Last modified: February 10, 2012

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