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Md. regulators launch investigation into rate increases by energy suppliers

ConsumersPetroleum IndustryEnergyCivil and Public Service

Maryland regulators have launched an investigation into the practices of several energy suppliers in the wake of winter rate spikes that drew howls of complaints from customers.

The state Public Service Commission ordered five companies to demonstrate why they shouldn't be fined, have their licenses revoked or pay refunds to consumers. Those firms are American Power Partners, Blue Pilot Energy, Major Energy, Maryland Gas & Electric and XOOM Energy.

Three did not respond to requests for comment. But XOOM and Maryland Gas & Electric said by email that they will cooperate with the order.

"We are proud of our efforts across our entire footprint to comply with all applicable consumer protection rules and regulations, including in Maryland," said Angela Bethge, marketing director for Maryland Gas & Electric parent U.S. Gas & Electric.

Jackie H. Whitman, marketing director for XOOM, said: "We understand the impact this unusually harsh winter has had on consumers across the country, and while we will not comment on the specifics of this order, we welcome the opportunity to provide the PSC with information we share with our customers."

As temperatures dropped and energy prices soared during the winter, some customers with variable-rate contracts for electricity or natural gas saw those rates double. Some more than doubled.

The Public Service Commission said hundreds of complaints poured in from customers who said their suppliers provided "false and misleading information" about how their rates could change and how to cancel.

Many of the complaints involved the five companies targeted in the show-cause orders, the commission said. Maryland Gas & Electric also is enrolling customers in parts of the state where it does not have permission to operate, the panel said.

jhopkins@baltsun.com

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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