Five months after Dominion Energy Utah stopped a “misleading” marketing campaign — including mailing out offers for insurance from a third-party company beneath the gas company’s letterhead — the state has ordered the company to stop collecting fees for the insurance in their bills and is looking into creating new rules to address the issue.
Given the order, customers who have authorized the HomeServe insurance fees on the gas bill can either continue making payments as normal or cancel the service. Those who never opted in do not need to act, according to a news release from the Utah Department of Commerce.
In May, the Utah Division of Public Utilities issued a consumer alert about envelopes being sent to Dominion Energy Utah customer offering them optional insurance for gas lines through the third-party HomeServe.
The solicitation letters confused customers because they included Dominion Energy logos and appeared to be bills or other official company correspondence, according to a report from the state Public Service Commission.
The report also found that by endorsing a third-party solicitor, Dominion Energy Utah — which the report says is a monopoly natural gas service that has a captive customer base — wasn’t acting “in the public interest." According to the report, customers were “leveraged as a primary value” in the transaction between the energy company and the third-party solicitor.
In doing so, the report says, customer information, including names, street addresses and their status as Dominion Energy Utah customers, was given out without their consent. That same information bought on the open market would total $25,000, according to the report.
“The monopoly relationship between [Dominion Energy Utah] and its captive customers requires a higher standard of care with respect to customer information,” the report states.
The Division of Public Utilities’s Office of Consumer Services has recommended the Public Service Commission consider new rules to address similar billing and information-sharing practices.
The suspension of bundling a third-party’s fees on Dominion Energy bills will remain in effect until the Public Service Commission modifies or revokes the order. The Commission also ordered Dominion Energy to credit customers for the cost of the information and access the company gave away.
A spokesperson for Dominion Energy Utah did not respond to The Salt Lake Tribune’s request for comment Friday afternoon.