Archive for September 2007

FTC, Houston Better Business Bureau to Sponsor Advertising Workshop

Green Lights & Red Flags: FTC Rules of the Road for Advertisers

A one-day “back to basics” workshop on complying with truth-in-advertising laws is being presented on Thursday, October 25, 2007, by the Federal Trade Commission’s Southwest Region and the Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan Houston. Green Lights & Red Flags: FTC-BBB Rules of the Road for Advertisers features a roster of national experts discussing the latest developments in advertising law for attorneys, business owners, and marketing executives. The workshop is presented in cooperation with the Houston Bar Association and the American Advertising Federation Houston.

Topics to be examined at the workshop include:

  • FTC Advertising Law: Understanding the Rules of the Road – The FTC’s approach to ad claims, disclosures, endorsements, and substantiation;
  • Avoiding a Promotion Commotion – Complying with new laws for rebates, commercial email, and other promotional practices;
  • The Secure Entrepreneur: Data Security & Consumer Privacy – Best practices to avoid, assess, and address a data-security breach;
  • Keeping Your Client Compliant – How advertisers and ad agencies can work together to make ads effective and compliant;
  • If the Government Comes to Call – An inside look at federal, state, and local consumer protection investigations; and
  • When Your Competitor Crosses the Line – Weighing the legal options when a competitor’s ads are deceptive.

Green Lights & Red Flags will be held at the Houston Club, 811 Rusk Avenue, 10th Floor, Houston, Texas from 8:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. The admission fee of $70 includes a full breakfast, lunch, and a CD of all workshop materials. Green Lights & Red Flags has been approved for 3.75 hours of Texas CLE credit. To register, visit www.bbbhou.org or www.ftc.gov/greenlights or call the BBB at 713 341-6147.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,600 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

CONTACT:
Deanya T. Kueckelhan, Director
FTC Southwest Region
(214) 979-9350
Deana Turner, Vice President of Government and Public Affairs
Better Business Bureau of Metropolitan Houston
713-341-6131

AMI Workshop Summary

For those of you who missed last week’s Advanced Metering Workshop, below is a summary and some perspectives on the discussions.  All the presentations are available on the Commission’s website:  
 
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TDSP’s appear to be trying to use the forum to achieve what they were not able to accomplish in the rule making.  Specifically they are seeking to expand their roll within the customer premise, with load control and DR programs and increasing TDSP control over the entire network AMI and  Home Area Networks.

 

ERCOT seems to be attempting to use the forum to minimize the interval data that they would need to consider and / or process.  It’s clear there is a disconnect between wholesale and retail applications of available data.  ERCOT wants stay with profiles, Center Point is concerned that if you stay with Profiles then the ability to manage profiled offerings (TOU) will be just as challenging.

 

TDSP’s are attempting to make the impact of AMI bigger than it is or will be by instilling thoughts into the Staff that the whole gambit of business process will need to be reconsidered and revamped.  Even the complaint side of the Commission commented that if should not affect any of the existing customer protection rules.  This reaction finally forced the TDSP’s back off a little.

 

TDSP’s are trying to raise issues with the network inside of the customer’s premise regarding security, access and control.   It appeared that Staff was buying into the aspect that TDSP’s should roll trucks when a customer’s device whether owned or not fails to communicate with the ZigBee gateway.

 

The TDSP web portal continues to be a significant focal point, however there is growing debate on what the portal should or will be.  Then there is the continual discussion about the roll of the portal in support of REP services.  From the TDSP view they seem to pushing for a one does all (i.e. provides for load control services / management, conditional message, separate custom deployments for each Rep with corresponding rules engine, etc.).   There is a big push to define the technology, but in essence they are putting the cart before the horse.  Example – Issues that need resolution if the web site to the one all solution, branding support, rules engine definition, NDA’s, SLA’s, security, scheduler engines, change control / project functions, development cost (initial and ongoing), etc.

 

One development that seems to have gathered legs was one portal, with a common standard, for all TDSPs & MP’s to use.

 

The issue of the TDSP being able to do remote diagnostics to test the communication gateway came up.  To hear the TDSP’s they have not thought of it and are not sure if they can with their technology.  Again back to controlling the need to roll a truck and the cost control to the REP / customer.

 

Staff was attempting to push out a number of the issues   to multiple working groups and back to the ERCOT environment.  RMS Chair supported by others encouraged against this approach.

 

Staff has already approached  the Commissioners regarding policy under the rule for interval data requirements, etc.  Expect this issue to come forward soon.

 

With all the Demand Response efforts  at PWG and the potential for market wide development it was disclosed that ERCOT will not use any of the effort or results to settle.  In other words the market will spend untold thousands for something that will not be used.

 

ALJ Asks for Update on Freedom Revocation

Andrew Kang, the PUCT ALJ assigned to docket 33491, (PETITION OF STAFF OF THE PUBLIC UTILITY COMMISSION OF TEXAS TO REVOKE RETAIL ELECTRIC PROVIDER CERTIFICATE NO. 10078 OF FREEDOM GROUP, LLC, dba FREEDOM POWER) has asked the PUCT staff to file an update on the status of settlement discussions no later than September 28, 2007. The revocation proceeding was initiated by staff back in November, 2006. In January of this year, the PUCT staff had requested cancellation of the January 11, 2007, prehearing conference to facilitate continued settlement discussions.

Freedom had only received one Notice of Violation (docket 33138) for customer protection related violations previous the the staff initiating this revocation proceeding. The revocation states that Freedom has 376 violations (based on customer complaints) and relies on those complaint violations in large part to justify the revocation request. The following are the violations cited by staff.

  1. Utilizing advertising that was fraudulent, unfair, misleading, deceptive, or anti-competitive;
  2. Assessing charges to customers that were not disclosed in their Terms of Service documents;
  3. Failing to provide customers 16 days to pay their electric bills;
  4. Requesting the disconnection of customers who had entered into payment arrangements and customers who had paid their bills;
  5. Sending customers improper disconnection notices, and requesting the disconnection of customers who had received improper notice;
  6. Requesting the disconnection of a customer for non-payment during an extreme weather emergency;
  7. Failing to request that customers be reconnected within 48 hours of each customer’s satisfactory correction of the reasons for disconnection;
  8. Failing to respond to complaints made to the Commission in a timely manner, and pursuing collection activities of customers who had filed complaints with the Commission; and
  9. Failing to maintain sufficient cash resources to operate in the retail market.

Texas and Mexico Connect Electrical Grids

Wednesday, September 19, 2007, By ELIZABETH SOUDER / The Dallas Morning News
Texas and Mexico are tying their electricity grids together to allow commercial power trade, but it’s not obvious which way the juice might flow. As a brand-new interconnection fires up next month, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas is testing whether the grid it operates north of the Rio Grande can handle commercial transactions with Mexico.

mail2web – Check your email from the web at http://link.mail2web.com/mail2web

PUCT Unveils New Org Chart

The PUCT has unveiled its new organizational structure.  The org chart is available on its website:  http://www.puc.state.tx.us/about/Oct_2007_FY08_OrgChart%20.pdf
 
The key difference is the elimination of the “Communications Industry Oversight” and the “Electric Industry Oversight” divisions.  In their place are two new divisions:  “Oversight and Enforcement” to be headed by Pam Whittington (who previously headed Communications Industry Oversight).  Pam’s group will be responsible for:  Competitive markets; service quality; Texas Regional Entity; and IMM administration.  There is also a new “Rate Regulation Division” to be headed by Darryl Tietjen who previously headed the Financial Review section of Electric Industry Oversight.  Their responsibility is somewhat obvious.
 
Jess Totten remains the head of the “Competitive Markets” division which will have primary responsibility for the following electric issues:  Wholesale market rules; Retail market rules; POLR Designation; Renewable Energy development; REC Program Oversight; Energy Efficiency; Generation Adequacy; and Federal issues.

Workshop on REP Certification Rule

On Monday, September 24th, PUCT Staff will conduct a workshop in Project 34039 (Rulemaking Proceeding to Amend PUC Substantive Rule 25.107 Relating to Certification of Retail Electric Providers). The workshop is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon in the Commissioners’ Hearing Room (the room will be reserved until 3:00 p.m. should the workshop last longer than two hours).
 

REMINDER: PUCT Advanced Metering Workshop

As a reminder the PUCT is holding a workshop on the Implementation of Advanced Metering.  The workshop will be broadcast on Texas Admin.
 
Docket No. 34610: Implementation Project Relating to Advanced Metering
DateTuesday & Wednesday, September 18-19, 2007 9:30 a.m.
7th Floor, Commissioners Hearing Room
William B. Travis Building

1701

N. Congress Ave.

Austin, TX 78701

 

ORDER OF

TOPICS SUBJECT TO CHANGE

 

TUESDAY

- SEPTEMBER 18

I.

Introduction

2. TDU Deployment Status and Update

    A. Centerpoint Energy

    B. Oncor Electric Delivery

    C. Questions

3. Transforming the Retail Market Discussion
4. Settlement Discussion

    A. Options for Summer 2008

    B. Goal for 2010

 
WEDNESDAY

- SEPTEMBER 19

5. Webportal Update

    A. Centerpoint Energy

    B. Oncor Electric Delivery

6. Priorities for Webportal Functionality

7. Home Area Network Discussion
8. Retail Product Development

    A. ZigBee

    B. Other Technology

 
Patricia Dolese
Regulatory Compliance Services
512-275-6442 (office)
512-656-3185 (mobile)
 

W Power and Light and PowerOne

Update:
On August 30, 2007, the ALJ rejected W Power and Lights request to use the name PowerOne as that name is controlled by Consulting Group Networks.  W Power and Light had sought to add this DBA to their certificate in filings made in docket 34550.  Since Consulting Group Networks had already filed their REP application seeking to use this DBA, and providing proof that this name was registered with the Secretary of State, the PUCT ruled that W Power and Light could not seek to use this name.  On September 10, 2007 a procedural schedule was entered in docket 34363, the REP Application for Consulting Network Groups dba PowerOne.  The PUCT staff had originally recommended denying this REP application due to the demonstrated lack of experience of the principals, notably that those used on the REP application cite as prior experience their work at Texas Commercial Energy and Bridgepoint, both REPs that left the market unexpectedly.
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Previous post:  August 27, 2007

W Power and Light is PowerOne?

Based on last week’s filings it appeared that Consulting Groups Network, LLC had asked for the DBA PowerOne on its REP application (docket 34363).  As mentioned, the website is up and running (www.poweronecompany.com).  Back on July 23, 2007, W Power and Light filed a REP application seeking to add the DBA PowerOne to its REP application.  On August 15, 2007, the Commission staff found the application deficient for many reasons including that another REP was currently attempting to use that DBA on a pending application, and as a result W Power could not use that DBA unless they provide documentation from the Texas Secretary of State demonstrating that the d/b/a name Power One, requested by another applicant in Docket No. 34363, has been forfeited by that Applicant.
 
In a filing today, W Power states that in asking for the DBA PowerOne that Power One is an additional DBA for W Power.  They state that “Another company is applying for a REP license under that name, and the name will be released when and if they are granted a REP license.
 
Well, I don’t know how the PUCT will respond, but certainly it seems that the website offering services under the name PowerOne is already operational.  So either Consulting Groups or W Power has a problem with using a name before its approved. 

News of interest…

AARP Intervenes in TXU Case on Behalf of More Than One Million of Its Members Served by Oncor Electric
AARP has filed a motion to intervene in a Public Utility Commission (PUC) case dealing with the leveraged buyout of TXU Corp. The case involves Oncor Electric, the business unit of TXU that provides transmission and distribution lines and is still regulated by the commission.
AUSTIN, Texas,, Sept 13, 2007 /PRNewswire-USNewswire
 
+++ The filing can be found in Docket 34077 and was filed on September 12th.
 
Texas Taking Bids on Offshore Wind Leases: Land Office Puts Tracts in Gulf Waters Up for Lease in Drive for Profit and More Energy
The Texas General Land Office is accepting bids for the right to produce energy in the Gulf of Mexico. There is one company that holds a wind energy lease in Texas waters — off the coast of Galveston — but it hasn’t started generating power.
Sep 13 – The Dallas Morning News

PUCT Staff Departure

It was announced at this morning’s open meeting that Parviz Adib, Director of Wholesale Market Oversight is leaving the PUCT staff.  This was Parviz’s last Open Meeting with his last official day coming in the next week or so.  I have no news on where, if anywhere, Parviz is going.