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TO: (a) Legislative Counsel - State of Georgia
(b) All Parties of Record – Docket No. 8044-U
(c) All Certificated Natural Gas Marketers
(d) Local Gas Companies
(e) Consumers’ Utility Counsel Division of the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs
(f) Affected Commission Staff
FROM: Georgia Public Service Commission
47 Trinity Avenue, S.W.
Atlanta, Georgia 30334
IN RE: Adoption of Amendments to Commission Utility Rule 515-7-3 (Marketers’ Certificates of Authority)
All interested parties are hereby notified pursuant to Ga. Laws 1964, pp. 338, 342, as amended (Official Code of Georgia Annotated Section 50-13-4) that the Georgia Public Service Commission ("Commission") has considered and adopted amendments to its rules concerning marketers' certificates of authority under the Georgia Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act (Senate Bill 215), O.C.G.A. § 46-4-150 et seq., and in particular O.C.G.A. §§ 46-4-153 and 46-4-160.
The Commission’s marketer certification rules first became effective as provided by law twenty (20) days after approval in Special Administrative Session on December 30, 1997, and subsequent filing with the Secretary of State. The Commission adopted amended rules in Administrative Session on May 16, 2000.
A. Introduction and Jurisdiction
The Georgia Public Service Commission is charged with the implementation and administration of the State of Georgia's Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act, O.C.G.A. § 46-4-150 et seq. (also referred to herein as the "Act"). As part of this implementation, the Commission established new rules relating to certificates of authority issued to persons pursuant to the Act.
As provided for in the Act, the Commission shall not consider any applications to provide service to a territory that is presently being served by a gas company holding a valid certificate of public convenience and necessity until such time as the gas company has filed a notice of election pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 46-4-154. Once a notice of election is filed, it is acted upon by the Commission, which is then authorized to issue certificates of authority to persons allowing them to sell or offer to sell natural gas in intrastate commerce to retail customers in a particular delivery group(s) that receive primarily firm service within the State of Georgia. To qualify for the issuance of a certificate of authority, a person must file an application with the Commission showing among other things that it possesses the appropriate financial and technical capability to sell or offer to sell natural gas within the state. A showing of public convenience and necessity is not a condition for the issuance of a certificate of authority within any delivery group(s).
B. Synopsis and Explanation of Rules
The primary purpose of the rules is to establish standards associated with issuance of certificates of authority under the Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act. To obtain a certificate of authority, an applicant must demonstrate to the Commission's satisfaction that it possesses adequate financial and technical capability to sell or offer to sell natural gas within the state. The determining criteria for the issuance of a certificate of authority are contained in the rules.
Once issued, a certificate of authority is subject to revocation, suspension, or modification where the Commission finds upon notice and hearing that a marketer has failed repeatedly or willfully to meet its obligations to retail customers; has engaged in unfair competition or has abused its market position; possesses itself or has acted in concert with anyone who possesses a history of violations of laws, rules or regulations designed to protect the public, has included falsified or forged information in its application for a certificate of authority; has acted unlawfully to the detriment of the public while certificated; and/or has engaged in activities that are or have the potential to mislead, deceive or work a fraud on the members of the public.
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 46-4-160, the Commission is authorized to resolve complaints against a marketer regarding that marketer’s service. To ensure that customers of a marketer are aware of its complaint procedures, the rules require that a marketer inform its customers of complaint procedures at least four times a year. Complaints regarding marketers may ultimately be acted upon by the Commission.
The amendments to the rule set forward the conditions pursuant to which a marketer may trade customers. The rule also requires that the marketer file with the Commission pricing information as well as disclose relevant pricing information when making offers to customers. Also, the rule as amended requires that marketer bills include the electing distribution company’s customer account number. The rule as amended also increases from five business to fifteen total days the amount of time that the Commission Staff has to notify marketer applicants that supplemental information was insufficient to complete their marketer applications. Finally, the amended rule includes additional standards for certification as well as additional grounds for revocation, suspension or modification of a certificate of authority.
Pursuant to the requirements of the Georgia Administrative Procedures Act at O.C.G.A. § 50-13-4(a)(1), the Commission adopts amendatory rules in Chapter 515-7-3 relating to certificates of authority under the Georgia Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act. The full text of the rules under Chapter 515-7-3 of the Utility Rules of the Commission is set forth below.
RULES OF GEORGIA PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION
515-7 GAS UTILITIES
MARKETERS' CERTIFICATE OF AUTHORITY
515-7-3-.02 Commission Authority and Scope of Provisions.
515-7-3-.03 Application for a Certificate of Authority.
515-7-3-.04 Certification Standards.
515-7-3-.05 Prerequisites to the Filing of an Application;
Scheduling of Hearings.
515-7-3-.07 Revocation, Suspension and Modification of
Certificates of Authority; Sanctions.
515-7-3-.08 Required Disclosures.
As used in this Utility Rule 515-7-3, the following terms shall have the following definitions:
(a) “Act” means the Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act as provided for in O.C.G.A. § 46-4-150 et seq.
(b) “Ancillary service” means a service that is ancillary to the receipt or delivery of natural gas, including without limitation storage, balancing, peaking, and customer services.
(c) “Applicant” means any person who has filed an application for a certificate of authority with the Georgia Public Service Commission to sell or offer to sell any commodity sales service or distribution service in intrastate commerce to retail customers who primarily receive firm service within the State of Georgia.
(d) “Commission” means the Georgia Public Service Commission.
(e) “Commodity sales service” means the sale of natural gas exclusive of any distribution or ancillary service.
(f) “Customer service” means a function related to serving a retail customer including without limitation billing, meter reading, turn-on service, and turn-off service.
(g) “Delivery Group” means a set of individual delivery points on one or more interstate pipeline suppliers to a gas company that may be aggregated and utilized for the distribution of gas to a particular set of retail customers.
(h) “Distribution service” means the delivery of natural gas by and through the intrastate instrumentalities and facilities of a gas company or of a marketer certificated pursuant to Code Section 46-4-153, regardless of the party having title to the natural gas.
(i) “Electing distribution company” means a gas company that elects to become subject to the provisions of the Act and satisfies the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 46-4-154.
(j) “Firm” means a type of distribution service which ordinarily is not subject to interruption or curtailment.
(k) “Gas” means natural gas.
(l) “Gas company” means any person to whom a certificate of public convenience and necessity has been issued by the Commission to own, operate, acquire, or construct any intrastate pipeline or distribution system, or any extension thereof, for the sale of natural gas.
(m) “Interruptible” means a type of distribution service which is subject to interruption or curtailment.
(n) “Marketer” means any person certificated by the Commission to provide commodity sales service or distribution service pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 46-4-153 or ancillary services incident thereto.
(o) “Person” means any corporation, whether public or private; company; individual; firm; partnership; or association.
(p) “Retail customer” or “retail purchaser” means a person who purchases commodity sales service or distribution service and such purchase is not for the purpose of resale.
(q) "Trade" means to swap or switch customers with another marketer for any form of compensation. “Trade” does not apply to a marketer assigning a customer under an existing contract to a new marketer pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 11-2-210.
Authority Ga. Law: O.C.G.A. §§ 46-4-152; 46-4-153(c)(1); and 46-4-160(a)(1).
515-7-3-.02 Commission Authority and Scope of Provisions.
(1) Consistent with the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) § 46-4-153, a person shall be required to obtain a certificate of authority from the Georgia Public Service Commission to sell or offer to sell natural gas in intrastate commerce to retail customers in a particular delivery group(s) who primarily receive firm service within the State of Georgia, as described by the regulations in this Rule. The Commission shall have the authority to adopt reasonable rules governing the certification of a marketer; grant, modify, impose conditions upon, or revoke a certificate; adopt reasonable rules governing quality of service; and resolve complaints against a marketer regarding that marketer's service. The rules set forth herein specify the manner in which such certificates shall be issued, identify the criteria that applicants must meet to obtain certification, set forth service standards, state prerequisites to an application being filed, establish hearing procedures, and specify the manner in which customer complaints shall be addressed. These rules also provide for the grounds upon which the Commission may deny, revoke, suspend, or modify a certificate of authority.
(2) The requirements of these rules shall apply to any person who sells or offers to sell any commodity sales service or distribution service in intrastate commerce to retail customers in a particular delivery group(s) who primarily receive firm service within the State of Georgia.
(3) Except as otherwise provided in Article 5 of Chapter 4 of Title 46 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, as amended, the issuance of a certificate of authority to a person by the Commission does not subject that person to the jurisdiction of the Commission under Title 46, including, without limitation, the provisions of Article 2 of Chapter 2 of Title 46 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, as amended.
(4) In the event of any conflict between the provisions of this Rule and applicable provisions of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, including O.C.G.A. § 46-4-153 as it may be amended from time to time, the applicable provisions of the O.C.G.A. shall take precedence. Any such conflict as to one or more provisions of these rules shall not, however, void or nullify any remaining provisions thereof.
Authority Ga. Law: O.C.G.A. §§ 46-4-153; 46-4-153(c)(1); 46-4-160(a); and 46-4-160(c).
515-7-3-.03 Application for a Certificate of Authority
(1) Any person seeking to sell or offer to sell natural gas on a firm basis pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 46-4-153 is required to file an application with the Commission on a form approved for a certificate of authority. No person other than a gas company shall sell or offer to sell natural gas to any person who primarily receives firm service in any delivery group(s) in Georgia unless and until such time as a certificate of authority has been issued by the Commission.
(2) Applications shall contain the following:
(a) the legal name of the applicant and the name under which it proposes to do business in Georgia, as well as its mailing and business address(es), telephone number(s), facsimile number(s), and Internet e-mail address, if any;
(b)the name(s) and current business address(es) of the applicant's principal corporate officers;
(c) the name(s) and current business address(es) of the applicant's principal and corporate officer(s) in Georgia, if different from those identified in subparagraph (b) above;
(d) a description of the applicant’s business, ownership structure, affiliates, date of formation, tax
(e) the most recent annual reports filed with stockholders and the Securities and Exchange Commission (Form 10K), if the applicant is a publicly held company;
(f) the proposed terms of service, expected revenues, and rules for contracting with firm customers as referenced in O.C.G.A. §§ 46-4-153(a)(2)(C) and 46-4-160(c);
(i) the rules for contracting with firm customers shall include, but are not limited to:
[a] the bills and contracts must be written in clear and plain language.
[b] the bills must contain sufficient information to allow customers to verify the accuracy of their bills.
[c] the pricing structure must be clearly explained, including any late fees or interest charges.
[d] the contract term must be specified along with any termination rights.(1) the firm customers must be allowed to cancel their contract without penalty within 48 hours of signing it.
(2) the firm customers must be given the right to cancel their contracts if they relocate out of their delivery group.
[e] the bill must include an emergency telephone number.
[f] the electing distribution company’s active customer account number must be placed on each bill.
(ii) the applicant acknowledges that it must comply with federal telemarketing rules and Georgia consumer protection laws.
(g) the financial information shall include, but is not limited to:
(i) a demonstration that the applicant’s capital base or other financial resources can withstand the business and financial risk and absorb losses that might occur in providing primarily firm gas service to retail customers;
(ii) an explanation as to how the applicant’s financial plans and resources will provide the means to implement its business/marketing plans for providing primarily firm gas service to retail customers;
(iii) the audited financial statements (balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow statements) of the applicant for the last three (3) years; if audited financial statements are unavailable, then unaudited financial statements supported by the sworn certification of an officer, general partner, or managing agent will be accepted;
(iv) a credit rating and/or bond rating made by a reputable third party or parties, such as Standard and Poor’s. If such rating is not available, or is not at least a BBB- from Standard and Poor’s or a Baa3 from Moody’s, the applicant shall submit any financial support agreements between the applicant and its parent, or access to lines of credit, or agreements with other parties to provide financial support;
(v) the details of any unconditional purchase obligations that require payments by the applicant in future periods;
(vi) a schedule of the applicant’s non-cancelable operating lease commitments;
(vii) the schedules detailing the applicant’s long-term debt and available credit facilities, including installments due on long-term debt;
(viii) the details of any joint ventures or general partnership agreements between the applicant and other parties;
(ix) the information as to whether an estimated claim from a loss contingency has been accrued by a charge to income as it relates to any pending or known litigation or actual claims;
(x) the management’s plan for dealing with matters relating to an applicant’s ability to continue as a going concern;
(xi) the applicant’s plan to provide for funds to be held in escrow by an independent third party in the event that prepaid services are to be offered or deposits are required; and
(xii) any other information that the applicant believes is relevant to the evaluation of its financial capability.
(h) the technical information shall include, but is not limited to:
(i) the names, current business address(es), and principal place(s) of business of employees that will direct the Georgia operations, including an employee of the applicant that will serve as a contact person for the Commission;
(ii) the delivery group(s) that the applicant seeks to serve;
(iii) the estimated or anticipated gas supply and capacity, as well as limitations, if any, to gas supply;
(iv) a contingency plan to provide gas to firm customers in the event that a supply disruption occurs;
(v) the procedures that will be employed in a gas-related emergency (i.e., force majeure, interstate capacity limitation);
(vi) a notarized document that the applicant has met or has the ability to meet the creditworthiness standards of the interstate pipelines serving the State of Georgia and the Commission-approved creditworthiness standards of the applicable electing distribution company (EDC);
(vii) a statement disclosing any existing, pending or past adverse rulings, judgments, litigation, contingent liabilities, revocations of authority, administrative regulatory investigations (i.e., FERC, SEC), and any other matters relating to the financial or operational status for the past three (3) years that materially affect current financial or operational status;
(viii) a statement describing the operating experience and qualifications of principal management employees involved in the day-to-day activities of the entity's operation in Georgia;
(ix) a list of the applicant’s comparable gas marketing activities by jurisdiction with quantification of annual sales, volumes or other measures of activity;
(x) the information as to whether certificates of authority for the sale of natural gas have ever been issued by any other state(s) and whether such certificates are current. An applicant shall also disclose to the Commission whether any application for certification has ever been denied and whether any certificate of authority issued to it or an affiliate has ever been suspended, revoked, modified, or sanctioned; and
(xi) any other information that the applicant believes is relevant to the evaluation of its technical capability.
(3) Any information that the applicant deems to be proprietary or confidential may be filed pursuant to Commission Rule Chapter 515-3-1-.11, Trade Secrets.
(4) An applicant shall submit to the Executive Secretary of the Commission the number of copies indicated on the application form. The original, signed by the applicant, must accompany the copies. Failure to provide the appropriate number of copies or the signed original will result in the rejection and return of the application.
(5) Any application that is deemed to be incomplete after it is filed with the Commission shall not be considered until such time as all of the information requested therein has been furnished. The sixty (60) day time frame during which the Commission is charged with conducting a public hearing or hearings on an application shall not commence unless and until a completed application has been submitted by the applicant. The Commission shall provide the applicant with a notification within fifteen (15) days after filing whether said application is deemed to be complete, or, if incomplete, what information is lacking. The Commission shall notify the applicant no later than fifteen (15) days following its receipt of any additional information whether such information is sufficient to regard the application as complete. If the additional information is not sufficient, the notification sent to the applicant by the Commission shall include a specific statement detailing the information that must be clarified or which otherwise does not adequately respond to the original request.
(6) The Commission shall deem an application to be withdrawn if the applicant fails to furnish any information requested in a notice of incompleteness within fifteen (15) business days after the date on which the request for additional information was issued.
(7) A certificate of authority may not be transferred, assigned, or leased except upon application to and approval by the Commission.
Authority Ga. Law: O.C.G.A. §§ 46-4-153(a)(1); 46-4-153(a)(2); 46-4-153(c)(1); 46-4-153(e); and 46-4-160(a)(1).
515-7-3-.04 Certification Standards
(1) The Commission shall issue a certificate of authority for a delivery group upon a showing by the applicant:
(a) that it possesses satisfactory financial and technical capability to render the certificated service;
(b) that it has the ability to obtain sufficient gas supply to meet the requirements of such service; and
(c) that it will offer such service pursuant to rules and contract terms which the Commission finds economically viable for the delivery group(s) which the applicant proposes to serve.
(2) Until such time as a determination is made by the Commission that adequate market conditions exist within a delivery group as contemplated by O.C.G.A. § 46-4-156, a marketer must separately list on its bills to retail customers within the delivery group the charges for firm distribution service and for commodity sales.
(3) A marketer shall not refuse to sell gas to a potential firm retail customer within the delivery group(s) covered by the marketer's certificate of authority if the sale can be made by the marketer pursuant to the rules for service authorized by the marketer's certificate of authority and upon terms that will provide the marketer with just and adequate compensation. The price at which a marketer sells gas shall not be fixed by the Commission.
(4) A certificate of authority shall not be issued to an applicant who is unable to document that it has the ability to meet the creditworthiness standards of the interstate pipelines serving the State of Georgia and/or the Commission-approved creditworthiness standards of the applicable EDC.
(5) The Commission may deny an application for a certificate of authority upon a showing that a marketer or anyone acting in concert with a marketer has a history of violating laws, rules, or regulations designed to protect the public.
(6) Upon being issued a certificate of authority, a marketer shall abide by applicable laws under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, all applicable rules and regulations of the Commission and findings, conclusions, terms, and conditions set forth in pertinent Commission Orders.
(7) Each marketer must keep on file with the Commission’s Natural Gas and Consumer Affairs Staff updated information on its regulatory contact person. The information shall contain the person’s name, phone number, email address, mailing address and fax number.
(8) Each marketer shall make available contemporaneously to randomly assigned customers the same options for rates, terms and conditions of service that the marketer makes available to its other similarly situated customers.
(9) Each marketer shall pass through senior citizen discounts to eligible customers to the extent provided by the electing distribution company.
(10) Marketers must apply to the Commission to receive authorization prior to any change in ownership, name change (including doing-business-as (d/b/a) name change), adding or dropping a delivery pool group from service, owning meters, or any other substantial change that would affect their certification.
(11) No marketer shall require a cash deposit to establish or re-establish credit in an amount in excess of two-and-one-half twelfths of the estimated charge for the service for the ensuing twelve months; and, in the case of seasonal service, in an amount in excess of one-half of the estimated charge for the service for the season involved. Each marketer shall establish an escrow account at a financial institution for the purpose of holding customer’s deposits. Customers’ deposits shall be held in trust in the escrow account established and shall not become the property of the marketer or be commingled with the funds of the marketer. Marketers shall pay interest on applicants’ or customers’ deposits for gas service held six months or longer at least equal to the interest rate paid by the financial institution where the escrow account is located. Upon receipt of a customer or applicant deposit, the marketer shall furnish the gas customer/applicant a receipt showing the following information:
a. Name of customer/applicant;
b. Amount of deposit;
c. Date of receipt;
d. Name of marketer;
e. Interest rate;
f. Address where service is to be rendered;
g. Statement of the terms under which the deposit may be refunded.
Upon discontinuance of service, each marketer shall promptly and automatically refund the customers' deposits plus accrued interest on the balance, if any, in excess of the unpaid bills for service furnished by the marketer. In the case of any residential customer who has received natural gas service at the same location for twenty-four consecutive months, and who has paid his monthly utility bills promptly and regularly, and is not, at the end of such twenty-four-month period, delinquent in the payment of bills, the marketer shall, within thirty days of the end of the twenty-four-month period, automatically refund the deposit plus accrued interest, provided however, that the term promptly and regularly shall not be construed to disallow the refund to a customer who has had only two delinquent payments during the twenty-four month period. If a customer has had service discontinued for nonpayment, or has not paid bills promptly and regularly, the marketer shall withhold the refund, but thereafter, review the customer's account every twelve billings, and at the completion of a twenty-four month period during which a record of prompt and regular payments has been established, the marketer shall automatically refund the deposit, plus accrued interest. At the option of the marketer, a deposit plus accrued interest may be refunded in whole or in part, at any time earlier than the times herein prescribed, and based on any credit review period less than twenty-four months in the discretion of the marketer.
(12) A marketer shall not, either individually or through an alliance with another marketer, refuse to sell gas to a potential firm retail customer within the territory covered by the marketer’s certificate of authority if the sale can be made by the marketer pursuant to the rules for service authorized by the marketer’s certificate of authority and upon terms that will provide the marketer with just and adequate compensation.
(13) A marketer shall file with the Commission monthly reports as required by the Commission’s Order in Docket No. 8390-U, providing the following: Composite sales volume and average revenue data by type of customer and delivery group; number of residential customers; number of commercial customers; number of industrial customers (to the extent these customers have firm service demands); total number of customers; therms delivered to commercial customers; therms delivered to industrial customers (to the extent the therms delivered are not interruptible); total therms delivered in firm service to customers; total therms purchased from suppliers for firm customer demands. If any such information constitutes trade secret, that limited portion of the information may be filed according to the Commission’s Trade Secret Rule 515-3-1-.11. Each report shall be filed on or before the 20thday of each month with data for the preceding month. All information in the monthly reports shall be filed under the Interim Certificate Number and Docket Number associated with the Applicant’s interim certificate.
(14) It shall be a violation of a marketer’s certificate to trade customers except when the following conditions are met:
(a) Thirty (30) days in advance of trading a customer, the marketer must provide to each customer it trades written notice stating the following:
(i) the date that the customer will be traded to a different marketer,
(ii) the name of the marketer to which the customer will be traded,
(iii) that the customer has the right to select the marketer of their choice without charge prior to the switch date, and
(iv) the rates, terms and conditions of service which the new marketer will be offering to them; and
(b) The traded customer’s right to one free annual switch shall not be affected by the trade. In the event the customer selects another marketer rather than be traded and a switching charge is incurred as a result, the prior marketer shall pay to the EDC any applicable switch fee so that the customer maintains its free annual switch. In the event that the customer is traded and then selects another marketer within the same calendar year and a switching charge is incurred as a result, the marketer to whom the customer was traded shall pay to the EDC any applicable switch fee so that the customer maintains its free annual switch.
(15) Each marketer shall file at the Commission by the 5th of the current month, the marketer’s standard fixed offer for residential customers and standard variable offer for residential customers. Such offers shall include the cost per therm for the commodity and upstream capacity charges, and shall also include the EDC’s base charge, the marketer customer service charge, and any other charges to be included in the offers.
Authority Ga. Law: O.C.G.A. §§ 46-4-153(a)(2); 46-4-153(c)(1); 46-4-153(e); 46-4-160(a)(1); and 46-4-160(c).
515-7-3-.05 Prerequisites to the Filing of an Application; Scheduling of Hearings
(1) An application for a certificate of authority shall not be filed with the Commission to provide service to a delivery group(s) that is presently being served by a gas company holding a valid certificate of public convenience and necessity until such gas company has filed a notice of election pursuant to the provisions of O.C.G.A. § 46-4-154.
(2) Until fifteen (15) days have expired after the effective date of rates approved by the Commission for an electing distribution company pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 46-4-154, the Commission shall not approve or disapprove any complete application for a certificate of authority covering delivery groups certificated to such electing distribution company which application is filed prior to such expiration date. All complete applications for certificates of authority filed prior to such expiration date shall be considered by the Commission simultaneously.
(3) Within sixty (60) days following such expiration date, the Commission shall conduct a public hearing or hearings on all complete applications filed prior to said expiration date. Thereafter, within ninety (90) days following such expiration date, the Commission shall issue its order approving or disapproving each application for a certificate of authority.
(4) The Commission shall conduct a public hearing on any application for a certificate of authority filed subsequent to the expiration date within sixty (60) days after the filing of such application. Within ninety (90) days after the filing of the application, the Commission shall issue its order approving or disapproving each application.
Authority Ga. Law: O.C.G.A. §§ 46-4-153(c) and 46-4-160(a)(1).
(1) All marketers holding certificates of authority shall notify their customers of their respective complaint procedures at least once during each quarter of the calendar year. This description shall include, at a minimum, the names, business addresses, telephone and facsimile numbers of personnel to contact with customer complaints, as well as the telephone number for the Consumer Affairs Division of the Commission. If these individuals are located outside the State of Georgia, a toll-free telephone number must be provided.
(2) The provisions of Commission Rule Chapter 515-2-1-.04(1) and (2) pertaining to complaints shall be applicable to marketers.
(3) Good faith assertions that a marketer certificated under O.C.G.A. § 46-4-153 has violated the laws and rules of the Commission and/or the terms of the certificate of authority that it has been issued may be made by any person. In the event that any such allegations are made against an applicant seeking to be certificated to sell or offer to sell natural gas in a particular delivery group(s) or an allegation is made that a marketer or anyone acting in concert with the marketer has such history of violations of laws, rules, or regulations designed to protect the public; has included in its application for a certificate of authority any information that was falsified or forged; has acted unlawfully to the detriment of the public while certificated; and/or is, has been, or may be about to become involved in activities described in O.C.G.A. § 46-4-153(6), the time constraints placed upon the Commission in granting certification shall be null and void until such time as the assertions made against the applicant can be reasonably addressed.
(4) Prior to a marketer contacting a gas utility for the purpose of disconnecting service for a residential customer, the marketer shall first comply with the procedural rules regarding disconnection as set forth in Chapter 515-3-2 of the Rules of the Georgia Public Service Commission. Failure to comply with the Commission's Rules for the disconnection of service of any residential customer may subject a marketer to sanctions that include, but are not limited to, the revocation of the marketer's certificate of authority.
Authority Ga. Law: O.C.G.A. §§ 46-4-151(b)(2); 46-4-153(e); 46-4-160(a)(1); 46-4-160(a)(2); 46-4-160(a)(3);46-4-160(a)(4); and 46-4-160(b).
515-7-3-.07 Revocation, Suspension, and Modification of a
Certificate of Authority; Sanctions.
(1) Any certificate of authority issued by the Commission is subject to revocation, suspension, or modification, where the Commission finds after notice and hearing that:
(a) a marketer has failed repeatedly or has failed willfully to meet the obligations to its retail customers imposed by the Act, the rules of this section, the certificate of authority issued by the Commission, or the Commission-approved tariff of the applicable EDC. For purposes of this rule, the term "repeatedly" means on more than one occasion;
(b) a marketer has been found to have engaged in unfair competition or has abused its market position, or has engaged in conduct prohibited by the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practice Act, O.C.G.A. § 10-1-370, et seq., The Fair Business Practices Act, O.C.G.A. §10-1-390, et seq., or the provisions against false advertising in Title XI, Chapter 1, Article 15, Part 3 of the Official Code of Georgia, annotated;
(c) a marketer or representative or agent thereof has included in its application for a certificate of authority any information that was falsified or forged;
(d) a marketer has acted unlawfully to the detriment of the public while certificated;
(e) any of the marketer's activities are serving or could serve to mislead, deceive, or work a fraud on the public;
(f) a marketer has charged a customer for products or services, without that customer’s authorization;
(g) for a twelve month period, a marketer has failed to provide gas service in one or more delivery groups for which it is certified, provided that if a marketer fails to provide natural gas service in a particular delivery group for which it is certified for a twelve month period, that shall not constitute a basis to revoke the marketer’s certificate if the marketer is providing service or has provided service within the last twelve months in other delivery groups for which it is certified; and/or
(h) a marketer of natural gas has not passed through to its retail customers any refunds the Commission ordered to be passed through to retail customers, provided, however, a marketer will not be required to pass through Commission ordered refunds to customers that are in arrears.
(2) The Commission, after a hearing is conducted after not less than thirty (30) days notice, shall determine whether a violation has occurred that warrants the revocation, suspension or modification of a certificate of authority. The burden of proof to show that any such action should be taken shall be placed upon the Commission. All orders issued pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 46-4-153(d) or (e) shall contain the Commission's findings of fact and conclusions of law upon which the Commission's action is based. Any such order shall be deemed a final order subject to judicial review under Chapter 13 of O.C.G.A. Title 50, the "Georgia Administrative Procedures Act."
(3) In addition to having its certificate of authority revoked, suspended, or modified, any marketer that is found after notice and hearing to have willfully violated any law administered by the Commission or any duly promulgated regulation issued thereunder, or which fails, neglects, or refuses to comply with any such order after notice thereof, shall be liable for a penalty not to exceed $15,000.00 for such violation and an additional penalty not to exceed $10,000.00 for each day during which said violation occurred.
(4) The provisions of Article 3 of Chapter 2 of Title 46 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, as amended, shall apply to an investigation or hearing involving a marketer. The provisions of Article 4 and 5 of Chapter 2 of Title 46 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, as amended, shall also apply to a marketer.
(5) The provisions of Part 2 of Article 15 of Chapter 1 of Title 10 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, as amended, shall apply to a marketer.
(6) The Commission, after notice and hearing as contemplated in the Georgia Administrative Procedure Act, O.C.G.A. § 50-13-1, et seq., may revoke, suspend or otherwise modify a certificate of authority based upon a finding that the marketer's financial condition or gas supply no longer meets the requirements for certification.
(7) The Commission may issue a certificate of authority to an applicant based upon conditions that include, but are not limited to, an applicant agreeing to provide the Commission annually with updated audited financial data within ninety (90) days of the close of its fiscal year as well as information within ten (10) business days of any event or occurrence that may materially affect its financial or operational status. The Commission and the Consumers' Utility Counsel of the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs shall also have access to the books and records of all marketers as may be deemed necessary to ensure compliance with the Act and the Commission's rules and regulations that are issued thereunder.
(8) All complaints to the Commission and violations relating to a marketer's conduct under its certificate of authority shall be made part of the Commission's records and shall be available for inspection by the public.
(9) The Commission, at its discretion, may reinstate any certificate of authority that it previously revoked.
Authority Ga. Law: O.C.G.A. §§ 46-4-153(d); 46-4-153(e); 46-4-160(a)(2); 46-4-160(a)(3);
46-4-160(d); 46-4-160(e); and 46-4-160(g).
515-7-3-.08 Required Disclosures
Whenever any certificated marketer, its agents, employees, or contractors make a retail natural gas offering to an individual customer, whether in response to an inquiry from that customer or as part of a marketer-initiated contact, the marketer shall be responsible for disclosing to the customer all charges that the customer will incur if the customer accepts the marketer’s service. If applicable to the marketer’s offer, the disclosure shall include the cost per therm for the commodity and upstream capacity charges, and shall also include the EDC’s base charge, the marketer customer service charge, and any other charges to be included in the offer. If the customer requests such information in writing, it shall be supplied in writing in a form that the customer can retain.
Authority Ga. Law: O.C.G.A. §§ 46-4-153(a)(1); 46-4-153(a)(2); 46-4-153(c)(1); 46-4-153(e); and 46-4-160(a)(1).
WHEREFORE IT IS;
ORDERED, that the Commission hereby adopts the foregoing amended rules concerning gas marketers' certificates of authority.
ORDERED FURTHER, that after 6 months the Commission will conduct a review to determine whether it is still prudent to include Rule 515-7-3-.04(15) in the marketer certification rules.
ORDERED FURTHER, that jurisdiction over this matter is expressly retained for the purpose of entering such further Order or Orders as this Commission may deem just and proper.
ORDERED FURTHER, that a motion for reconsideration, rehearing or oral argument or any other motion shall not stay the effective date of this Order, unless otherwise ordered by the Commission.
The above by action of the Commission in Administrative Session on the 16th day of May, 2000.
HELEN O’LEARY BOB DURDEN
Executive Secretary Chairman