Electricity – Markets
AUC enforcement staff (“Enforcement Staff”) submitted an application for approval of a settlement agreement between Enforcement Staff and ENMAX Energy Corporation (“EEC”) (“Settlement Agreement”). Enforcement Staff began an investigation following EEC’s self-disclosure of an incident that resulted in the issuance of 1,426 late customer bills (the “Contravention”). EEC disclosed that the late billing was caused by a system error with its automated billing check system, where certain bills failed to reach EEC staff for review.
In accordance with the Settlement Agreement, Enforcement Staff requested approval of an administrative penalty of $23,500, and EEC to pay customer bill credits totaling $71,300.
The AUC approved the Settlement Agreement between Enforcement Staff and EEC, as filed.
The AUC held that its jurisdiction to consider and approve the Settlement Agreement was grounded in its general powers in ss 8 and 23 of the Alberta Utilities Commission Act (“AUC Act”) and the administrative penalty provisions in s 63 of the AUC Act. The AUC applied the public interest test to negotiated settlements for enforcement proceedings, which was adopted from criminal law. The public interest test sets a high threshold for departing from a joint submissions (or negotiated settlements in the regulatory context), such that “a trial judge should not depart from a joint submission unless the proposed sentence would bring the administration of justice into disrepute or is otherwise contrary to the public interest.”
In approving the Settlement Agreement, the AUC noted that the parties to the settlement considered factors listed in s 4 in Rule 013: Criteria Relating to the Imposition of Administrative Penalties (“Rule 013“), including the mitigating factors in s 6 of Rule 013. Furthermore, the AUC observed that EEC self-disclosed the wrongdoing to Enforcement Staff, and co-operated fully in Enforcement Staff’s investigation. Finally, the AUC acknowledged that EEC had taken steps to implement process changes to avoid future non-compliance and had begun to apply the customer bill credits it committed to in the Settlement Agreement.
As a result, the AUC was satisfied that the public interest test was met by approving the Settlement Agreement.