SALT LAKE CITY — In response to complaints from the public and the Division of Public Utilities and the Office of Consumer Services, the Public Service Commission has ordered Dominion Energy to stop using its bill to collect charges for third-party services unless the customers have already authorized the charges.
The case arose from the utility sharing its customer information with third parties via a solicitation letter sent out in May.
According to the case docket included with a press release from the Utah Department of Commerce, the solicitation letter was sent to customers of Dominion Energy Utah, offering optional coverage of up to $8,000 annually for eligible repair services made to customers’ gas lines extending “from your utility’s responsibility up to each gas appliance in your home.”
The letter indicated the repair service contract was offered by HomeServe at a rate of $5.49 per month that would be billed using the customer’s monthly Dominion Energy utility bill. The service contract would be automatically renewed annually at the then-current renewal price.
The docket states that the letter did not contain any distinct references to Dominion Energy Utah – the utility regulated by the Public Service Commission – or Dominion Products and Services Inc. Instead, it referred generally and ambiguously to “Dominion Energy.”
The Division of Public Utilities and Office of Consumer Services asserted that the solicitation letter was misleading and confusing. The docket states:
(Dominion Energy Utah’s) actions, through its participation in the preparation and distribution of the Solicitation Letter, contributed to the obfuscation of the actual service being offered and the true identities of the parties that would provide it. Many Solicitation Letter recipients were confused as to who was offering the gas line coverage and what equipment would be covered, as evidenced by the numerous customer inquiries that initiated this docket. … A clarification correspondence that was subsequently sent by DEU to DEU customers maintained the obfuscation of the relationships between the various affiliates by using the same Dominion Energy logo that appeared on the Solicitation Letter and referring to the service provider as “our partner.”
According to the press release, the Public Service Commission will consider new rules for these billing and information-sharing practices. The commission will also require Dominion Energy to credit customers with the value of customer information and access, to be determined in a future proceeding.
What this means for Dominion customers
If you are a Dominion customer who is being billed for HomeServe insurance products on your gas bill, you can continue to make your HomeServe payment on your bill if you wish. You may also cancel the service by calling HomeServe at 1-833-808-6703 or Dominion Energy at 1-800-323-5517. You can also manage your account online.
If you are a Dominion customer who does not pay for HomeServe insurance products, you do not need to do anything. If you wish to buy a third-party insurance product, you will need to arrange it directly with the provider. Third-party services may not be billed on your Dominion gas bill if you were not already paying for the third-party service on your bill on or before Oct. 4.
The Division of Public Utilities and the Office of Consumer Services will continue advocating for customers to be compensated fairly for the value of the information traded by Dominion Energy. The agencies will also participate in the upcoming rulemaking to address utilities’ information sharing practices to protect customers’ information and privacy.
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