Gas – Markets
The Market Surveillance Administrator (“MSA”) applied for approval of a settlement agreement between the MSA, EPCOR Energy Alberta GP Inc. as general partner of EPCOR Energy Alberta Limited Partnership (collectively, “EEA”), and 1772387 Alberta Ltd. (“Encor”), as general partner of 1772387 Alberta Limited Partnership (the “Settlement Agreement”).
The AUC determined that approval of the proposed Settlement Agreement was in the public interest and approved the MSA’s application.
The Settlement Agreement was reached after the MSA conducted an investigation regarding a prohibited sharing of customer information for sales purposes that occurred between 2016 and 2021. The parties agreed that this conduct, prohibited by ss 17(2) and 18 of the Code of Conduct Regulation (“COCR”), gave EEA and Encor an unfair competitive advantage.
Following an investigation, the MSA was satisfied that EEA, on behalf of Encor, used regulated rate option (“RRO”) customers’ billing histories to determine whether prospective Encor customers were financially eligible for Encor’s services. The investigation found that under the service level agreement (“SLA”) between EEA and Encor, EEA assessed the financial eligibility of prospective Encor customers, who were asked to consent to a review of their billing history with EEA (an internal credit assessment), for retail electricity services provided by Encor. Where a prospective customer did not consent to an internal credit assessment or one was not available, financial eligibility was assessed based on an external credit score.
By using the internal credit assessment provided by Encor, the cost to EEA passed on to Encor, was lower than the cost of an external credit assessment. This resulted in cost savings for Encor from July 1, 2016, to June 20, 2021. EEA shared the creditworthiness assessment derived from its RRO billing history information with Encor for sales purposes.
EEA and Encor admitted that they contravened s 17(2) of the COCR, as well as s 6 of the Electric Utilities Act. EEA and Encor admitted to the contraventions and agreed to pay administrative monetary penalties (the “Penalties”) and the MSA’s investigation costs.
The Settlement Agreement
The Settlement Agreement reflected remedial actions undertaken by both EEA and Encor after receiving the MSA’s summary of facts and findings, and included the following terms:
- Encor will pay a Penalty of $105,000, including $84,000 as the approximate benefit to Encor due to the contraventions, plus an additional penalty of $21,000;
- EEA will pay a Penalty of $21,000; and
- EEA and Encor will pay, jointly and severally, costs of the investigation to the MSA of $20,000.
The AUC considered the Settlement Agreement using the public interest test. The AUC was satisfied that the proposed Penalties are reasonable, considering the seriousness of the contraventions and the mitigating actions identified by the MSA. The AUC was further satisfied that the proposed payment by EEA and Encor to the MSA for the costs of the investigation is appropriate. The AUC determined that the Penalties achieve the goals of specific and general deterrence.