Benson, Caride & Fuentes Bill to Protect Consumers from Being Barraged by Misleading Calls from Electric Suppliers Released by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Daniel R. Benson, Marlene Caride and Angel Fuentes sponsored to protect consumers from being slammed by calls from electric power suppliers making false and misleading claims was released Thursday by an Assembly committee.

The bill (A-3422) bans electric power suppliers from making false and misleading claims to potential customers. The bill also limits suppliers’ calls to customers to once per year where no business relationship exists.

“We’ve seen growing problem of consumers getting slammed by these calls, many of which appear to include false and misleading claims,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “New Jersey has taken strong steps to protect consumers from aggravating telemarketing calls. This area should be no different.”

“Consumers deserve to know they can stop unwanted phone calls, especially those that spread questionable information,” said Caride (D-Passaic/Bergen). “We’ve had enough with false claims, and with getting barraged with calls from companies with which we have no business relationship.”

“Residents deserve the peace and quiet of their homes, not one call after another from companies that they have no business relationship with,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This is a reasonable and common sense bill to protect consumers.”

The bill would require the Board of Public Utilities (“BPU”) to adopt advertising and marketing standards for electric power suppliers which would prohibit suppliers from purposeful and knowing: making of false or misleading advertising claims to a potential customer; or initiating contact with a potential customer via telephone more than once per calendar year for the purpose of making an unsolicited advertisement if the electric power supplier does not have an existing business relationship with the potential customer.

The bill would provide that any electric power supplier that violates the above provisions and, in doing so, collects charges for electric power supply services from a customer, shall be liable to the customer in an amount equal to all charges paid by the customer after such violation in accordance with any procedures as the BPU may prescribe.

Further, any electric power supplier that violates the above provisions shall be liable for a civil penalty of not more than $10,000 for the first offense, and not more than $25,000 for the second and each subsequent offense, for each day that the violation continues.

Any civil penalty which may be imposed may be compromised by the BPU.

The bill was approved 6-0 by the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee. It now awaits further consideration in the Assembly.