The Regulatory Mix, TMI’s daily blog of regulatory activities, is a snapshot of PUC, FCC, legislative, and occasionally court issues that our regulatory monitoring team uncovers each day. Depending on their significance, some items may be the subject of a TMI Briefing.
The Federal Trade Commission announced that Sprint agreed to pay $2.95 M in civil penalties to settle charges that it failed to give proper notice to consumers placed in a program for customers with lower credit scores and charged an extra monthly fee. The FTC alleged that Sprint placed consumers with lower credit scores in an Account Spending Limit (ASL) program that requires consumers to pay a monthly fee of $7.99 in addition to the charges for cell phone and data services. Because Sprint allows customers to be billed for services after they are used, it is subject to the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act and its Risk-Based Pricing Rule (Rule). The Rule requires that companies inform consumers whenever they are offered service on less favorable terms – such as the ASL program – as a result of information from their credit reports or scores. The FTC alleged that Sprint in many cases failed to provide consumers placed in the ASL program with all of the disclosures in the required notice, omitted required information, and often provided the notices to consumers after the window in which they could cancel their service and change to another provider without paying an early termination fee had passed. In addition to the $2.95 million penalty, the proposed settlement requires Sprint to provide the required notices to consumers within five days of signing up for Sprint service or by a date that gives them the ability to avoid recurring charges like those in the ASL program, and to send corrected risk-based pricing notices to consumers who received incomplete notices from the company.
U.S. Senate Committee On Commerce, Science, & Transportation will hold a confirmation hearing on October 28, 2015, to consider the nomination of FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel to a second five-year term. Ms. Rosenworcel’s first term was from May 2012-June 2015. She may remain in her current role as commissioner until December 31, 2016, while awaiting Senate confirmation for a second term.
The PUC issued a Press Release to remind consumers about the pending area code overlay approved for the Piedmont area. TMI Briefing Service subscribers see Briefing dated 9/19/14. The new 743 area code will be “overlaid” over the same geographical area as the current 336 area code so that two area codes, 743 and 336, will be assigned to the area, generally covering the Piedmont, including the cities of Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point, Kernersville, Burlington, North Wilkesboro, Roxboro, and Asheboro. Beginning October 24, 2015, customers may begin placing local calls by using the new 10-digit local dialing pattern (but may continue to use 7-digit local dialing until April 22, 2016). Effective on April 23, 2016, all local calls must be placed using the 10-digit telephone number (336 or 743 plus the 7-digit local telephone number).
The PUC approved the long-term infrastructure improvement plan (LTIIP) and distribution system improvement charge (DSIC) for PECO Energy Company (PECO), which will allow for enhanced system resiliency and reliability. The LTIIP and DSIC were filed in compliance with Act 11 of 2012. Act 11 requires, among other things, that utilities file LTIIPs as part of any action to establish a DSIC to recover reasonable and prudent costs incurred to repair, improve, or replace certain eligible property that is part of a utility’s distribution system. The PUC reported that PECO’s LTIIP covers a five-year period, from 2016 through 2020, and consists of three main project areas and a fourth category related to unreimbursed facility relocations: 1) storm hardening and resiliency measures; 2) underground cable replacement; 3) building substation retirements; and 4) facility relocations. “PECO will increase capital investment by approximately $274 million over the next five years. This investment will fund infrastructure improvements designed to enhance reliability by strengthening and modernizing PECO’s electric distribution system,” said Commissioner Witmer. “PECO’s LTIIP also includes a conceptual plan to construct one or more pilot microgrids in its service territory,” added Commissioner Witmer. “PECO indicates that these projects could be potential alternatives to traditional transmission and distribution solutions, and that the company is focusing on areas where the projects can provide significant benefit to diverse customer segments and critical facilities.”