Proton Energy, a tiny Texas retail electric company accused of being a serial rules violator, has agreed to a $400,000 penalty and a change in ownership, according to documents filed at the Texas Public Utility Commission.
The PUC accused Proton in September of more than 1,000 violations, and had originally recommended more than $2 million in penalties. Proton owner Ramzan Ali previously disputed PUC allegations as “nonsense,” telling the author of this newsletter that his company endeavors to treat the “customer like a king.”
But in a proposed settlement posted on the PUC website, the company now acknowledges a number of violations, including those relating to the protection of customer deposits and those relating to the disconnection of service during extreme weather. However, the company continues to dispute a number of other allegations, according to the filing.
The settlement calls for a change of company ownership by July 1, and stipulates that Mr. Ali will “not be employed by, hold any type of ownership interest in, or exercise control in any other way” over the company. Mr. Ali also is barred from participation in any market overseen by the PUC for five years, according to the settlement. It calls for the payment of $400,000 in penalties, to be paid in monthly installments.
The PUC staff earlier alleged that the company’s actions potentially posed “serious risks to the health, safety, and economic welfare of the public” and that its violations were among the most egregious violations that a (retail electric company) can commit.”
Ultimately, it’s up to the PUC’s three appointed commissioners to rule on the settlement. A link to the PUC’s staff allegations against Proton can be found here. The settlement agreement can be found here.
Under the PUC’s complaint process, customers can file a complaint against a company with the agency’s Office of Customer Protection. Agency employees then make an inquiry with the company, which has 21 days to respond. A PUC investigator evaluates the company’s response to determine whether it failed to follow the law.
Customers wishing to file complaints regarding their electric service can do so through the agency’s Office of Customer Protection, which can be reached at 1-888-782-8477, by email at email@example.com, or online at http://puc.state.tx.us/consumer/complaint/Complaint.aspx.
Texans can also review specific complaint data for competitive electric providers at http://powertochoose.com.
The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power also releases annual reports on electricity-related complaints filed with the PUC. You can find the latest report here.
Is a policy analyst consultant for TCAP, a coalition of political subdivisions in Texas that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because energy costs are typically a significant budget item to our members, TCAP is consistently looking for ways to save our members money, through cost-saving contracts, energy efficiency or demand response programs.