PUC seeks to suspend Fort Worth-based electricity provider

Posted Thursday, Sep. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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The Public Utility Commission of Texas staff has recommended revoking the certificate of Proton Energy, a Fort Worth retail electric provider that says it has about 2,500 customers.

According to the PUC staff complaint, Proton has committed more than 1,000 violations of federal and state rules since 2011 in its dealings with customers.

Owner Ramzan R. Ali said that he has discussed the allegations at length with PUC staff but that it has refused to accept his explanations of the company’s operations. Proton will contest the action, which he said is aimed at driving a small competitor from the market.

Proton Energy has operated as a retail electric provider in Texas since April 2009, according to its state operating certificate. In Texas’ deregulated electricity market, REPs sell electricity to residential and business customers and handle billing and service issues for them.

The PUC has revoked the licenses of 13 REPs since 2002, when the residential electricity market opened to competition, spokesman Terry Hadley said. A number of others have voluntarily left the market, he said, and several dozen are serving the residential market now.

PUC staff, in a petition to the agency’s board, said that on more than 400 occasions, Proton disconnected customers for nonpayment without providing proper notice. The state regulators also said that Proton improperly placed a switch-hold on customers at least 288 times, a move that prevents the customer from switching providers.

The PUC also said Proton failed numerous times to respond in a timely manner to inquiries about customer complaints.

Ali emailed the Star-Telegram a lengthy objection to the PUC complaints. Among other things, it said Proton gave customers more than the required notice before disconnecting an account.

Ali’s statement did acknowledge that about a year ago, an employee mistakenly put switch-holds on some customers who were supposed to be disconnected. He said that he fixed his procedure and that the error will not happen again.

Hadley said Proton has 30 days to request a hearing on the staff’s action. After that, the case would go before a state administrative law judge.

After the hearing, the judge would file a “proposal for decision” with the PUC board, which would make the final determination, Hadley said.

Jim Fuquay, 817-390-7552 Twitter: @jimfuquay

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