4901:1-29-10 Contract administration and renewals.

(A) Retail natural gas suppliers and opt-in governmental aggregators shall arrange for the provision of competitive retail natural gas service by contracting with their customers. In their administration of such contracts, retail natural gas suppliers and opt-in governmental aggregators are prohibited from engaging in unfair, deceptive, misleading, and unconscionable acts and practices.

(B) Retail natural gas suppliers and opt-in governmental aggregators shall maintain copies of individual customer contracts for no less than two years after such contracts terminate.

For any contract where the customer's signature is not physically on the same document as the complete terms and conditions of such contract, the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator must assign a unique version number to each version of the contract. Such version number must appear on the document containing the customer's actual signature, on the copy of the terms and conditions left with the customer, and on a master copy of the complete terms and conditions of the contract. Both the document containing the customer's physical signature and the master copy of the complete terms and conditions must be retained in accordance with this rule. This provision shall not apply where the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator has obtained the customer's consent by telephone or internet enrollment.

(C) In its administration of customer contracts, a retail natural gas supplier and an opt-in governmental aggregator shall also:

(1) Not assign a customer contract to another retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator without:

(a) Providing a minimum of fourteen days written notice to the director of the service monitoring and enforcement department or the director's designee before the contract assignment. Such notice shall include:

(i) The name of the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator to whom the contract(s) will be assigned.

(ii) The type of contract(s) to be assigned (e.g., residential, small commercial).

(iii) The number of contracts to be assigned.

(iv) The incumbent natural gas company involved.

(v) The date of the assignment.

(vi) A copy of the customer notification.

(b) Providing prior written notice to the customer.

(2) When assigned a contract previously administered by another retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator, comply with all terms and conditions in effect for the contract before the assignment occurred.

(3) Comply in a timely manner with all valid notices from customers to cancel or terminate the contract as provided for by the contract and by this chapter.

(4) Assign a number to each version of its standard contract form (including changes in contract price), retain such forms for no less than two years, and provide copies to staff within three business days of request.

(D) Customers shall have the right to rescind their contracts, within seven business days following the postmark date on the natural gas company's confirmation notice:

(1) By calling the incumbent natural gas company at the designated toll-free or local telephone number.

(2) By written notice to the incumbent natural gas company which is effective as of the date of the postmark.

(E) Contract renewals shall comply with the provisions of this paragraph.

(1) A material change, for purposes of contract renewals, includes but is not limited to any new fee or penalty or any change to an existing fee or penalty, any change from a fixed rate to a variable rate or vice versa, any increase in a fixed rate, any change to a formula used to calculate a variable rate, or any change to the factors used to determine a variable rate.

(2) Contract renewal notices required under this paragraph shall, unless otherwise specified, meet the following minimum requirements:

(a) The notice shall be made by separate mailing (envelope or postcard), the front cover of which shall state: "Important notice regarding your natural gas service contract."

(b) The notice shall state the current contract's expiration date and length of any renewal period.

(c) The renewal period for contracts with renewal provisions shall not exceed the initial contract period.

(d) The notice must clearly explain how the customer may terminate, renew, and/or extend the contract or, if the contract will renew automatically, the manner in which the customer may cancel the contract and the time period during which the customer must act to cancel the contract.

(e) If the renewed contract will contain any material change, as compared with the contract that is currently effective, then the notice shall clearly explain to the customer each such material change to the contract. However, if the contract renewal is covered by paragraph (E)(5) of this rule, then the inclusion of the new rate in the first notice shall be governed by that paragraph.

(3) For contracts with a renewal period of six months or longer that contain no material changes (as defined in this rule), the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator shall provide the required notice at least forty-five days, but not more than ninety days, in advance of the contract expiration date.

(4) For renewals of six months or longer that contain any material change to the contract and after renewal, will contain an early termination or cancellation option with a fee greater than twenty-five dollars for early termination or cancellation or contain no option for early termination or cancellation, the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator shall comply with the following provisions:

(a) The retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator shall provide to the customer notice of the contract expiration at least forty-five days, but not more than ninety days, in advance of such expiration date.

(b) The retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator shall obtain the customer's affirmative consent to all material changes pursuant to any of the enrollment procedures established in rule 4901:1-29-06 of the Administrative Code.

(c) The retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator shall notify the customer that no response will result in the customer automatically reverting to the natural gas company unless the customer chooses another retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator.

(5) For contract renewals of six months or longer that contain any material change and, after renewal, will contain an early termination or cancellation option with a fee of twenty-five dollars or less for early termination or cancellation, the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator shall comply with the following provisions:

(a) The retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator shall provide the customer with two separate notices.

(b) Each notice shall state that the customer contract will renew at the new rate unless the customer affirmatively cancels the contract.

(c) The first notice shall be provided at least forty-five days, but not more than ninety days, in advance of the contract expiration date. The first notice need not include the new rate at which the customer contract will be renewed but, if it does not include that new rate, it must set forth the date on which the second notice will be delivered, the method of delivery that will be used for the second notice, and a statement that the second notice will include the new rate.

(d) The second notice may be in writing in accordance with the requirements of this rule, by telephone, by a notice on the customer's monthly bill, or by electronic mail. The notice shall be provided for customer receipt at least thirty-five days prior to contract expiration.

(i) In the event that the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator provides notice by telephone, the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator must confirm that the customer of record is on the line, clearly explain both the new contract price and the manner in which the customer may cancel the contract, record the entire conversation, and retain such recording in a manner consistent with rule 4901:1-29-06 of the Administrative Code.

(ii) In the event that the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator provides notice on the customer's monthly bill, such notice must be in a different color, highlighted, or otherwise differentiated from the remainder of the bill.

(iii) In the event that the customer has affirmatively consented to receive notifications by electronic mail, then the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator may provide notice by electronic mail, which notice must: (a) state "Important notice regarding your natural gas service contract" in the subject area of the message, (b) be from an electronic mail address that is readily identifiable as the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator, and (c) include a receipt returned to the sender which confirms that the addressee has opened the document.

(F) Each customer shall have the right to terminate the contract with a retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator, without penalty, in either of the following two circumstances:

(1) The customer relocates outside the territory of the incumbent natural gas company or within the territory of an incumbent natural gas company that does not permit portability of the contract.

(2) The contract allows the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator to terminate the contract for any reason other than customer nonpayment or the occurrence of a force majeure event, including but not limited to a change in any governing law or regulation that physically prevents or legally prohibits the retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator from performing under the terms of the contract.

(G) No retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator contract shall limit or preclude a customer's right to make formal or informal complaints to the commission. A retail natural gas supplier or opt-in governmental aggregator shall not require a customer as part of the terms of service to engage in alternative dispute resolution.

(H) Account numbers and social security numbers shall be held pursuant to the following provisions:

(1) Other than for operation, maintenance, assignment and transfer of a customer's account or, where a retail natural gas supplier is performing billing services, for commercial collection, a retail natural gas supplier shall not disclose a customer's account number without the customer's affirmative written or electronic authorization, which authorization must comply with paragraph (B) of rule 4901:1-29-9 of the Administrative Code, or pursuant to a court or commission order. Other than for credit checking and credit reporting by a retail natural gas supplier that is performing billing services, a retail natural gas supplier shall not disclose a customer's social security number without the customer's affirmative written consent or pursuant to a court order.

(2) Other than for commercial collection, percentage of income payment plan aggregation, and governmental aggregation, a natural gas company shall not disclose a customer's account number without the customer's affirmative written or electronic authorization, which authorization must comply with paragraph (B) of rule 4901:1-29-9 of the Administrative Code, or pursuant to a court or commission order. Other than for credit checking and credit reporting, a natural gas company shall not disclose a customer's social security number without the customer's affirmative written consent or pursuant to a court order.

Effective: 02/27/2009
R.C. 119.032 review dates: 11/30/2011
Promulgated Under: 111.15
Statutory Authority: 4929.22
Rule Amplifies: 4929.22 , 4929.27 , 4905.04 , 4905.05 , 4905.06
Prior Effective Dates: 7/4/02, 4/13/07