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February 28. 2013 9:09PM

Utilities commission sets date for power penalty hearings

CONCORD - The state Public Utilities Commission on Thursday set hearings for March 20 and 22 to determine whether to assess penalties on or revoke the registrations of Power New England and its broker, Resident Power.

The PUC alleges that PNE failed to follow several rules as Manchester-based PNE hit a money crunch and attempted to sell its customers to another company.

Thursday's order, which opened a formal investigation into the two companies, "formally prohibits PNE from enrolling new

energy customers until the matters at issue are resolved," the PUC said in a statement. Resident Power is free to continue enrolling customers pending the outcome of the hearings, the statement said.

It also alleges that the company failed to maintain an energy supply to meet customer demand and wants cleared up the relationship between the two companies.

Gus Fromuth is managing director of PNE and is on the board of Resident Power, which is run by his son, Bart Fromuth.

Most former PNE customers - about 7,300 - became default customers of Public Service of New Hampshire, according to PUC documents.

Last week, Resident Power asked the commission for a declaratory ruling that its registration was still valid, that no rules prevent the company from continuing to represent its customers, including former PNE customers, and that the company's proposed enrollment of former PNE customers and "reconfirmed" Resident Power customers with companies offering lower rates than PSNH would not constitute "slamming," which is jargon for signing customers up for electric service without their knowledge.

The commission granted only the request signifying that Resident Power still had a valid registration, according to PUC documents.

"In light of the show-cause Order of Notice issued today regarding the recent business activities of Resident Power and PNE, and the factual uncertainties surrounding recent events involving Resident Power and PNE ... we are not convinced that the factual background is sufficiently 'definite and concrete' for the granting of the declaratory ruling sought by Resident Power," according to the PUC's ruling on Resident Power's request.



tbuckland@unionleader.com



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