ACHRNEWS

Michigan Alliance for Fair Competition appeals ruling

April 26, 2000
LANSING, MI — The Michigan Alliance for Fair Competition (MAFC), a coalition of associations of heating and cooling contractors doing business in Michigan, announced that it has appealed a Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) Administrative Law Judge’s (ALJ’s) ruling that seems to be siding with the utilities.

According to Lynn Briggs, a director of the MAFC, the ruling excluded testimony that provided actual examples of regulated utility misconduct in a competitive marketplace. The proceeding could be used to set guidelines for electric utility competition in Michigan.

The ruling would exclude real- world examples of utility conduct as it relates to their anti-competitive behavior in a competitive marketplace, according to Briggs.

The MAFC appeal requests that the commission, at its next regularly scheduled meeting, or at a special meeting if necessary, reverse the ruling and order the testimony of Lynn L. Briggs, Daniel R. Squires, and Clifford R. McCourt, witnesses for the MAFC, be heard immediately.

When asked to comment, Mary Jo Kunkle, spokesperson for the MPSC, said that “The PSC speaks through its orders and will not make a comment until there is a final ruling.”

“The public utilities in Michigan are using their monopoly status to unfairly compete with small businesses in the state of Michigan. . . .” said Briggs. “Every time we try to tell the regulators about this misconduct, the monopolies gang up on us and try to silence us.”

According to Briggs, examples of utility misconduct highlighted in the stricken testimony include:

  • Use of regulated utility mailings, paid for by ratepayers, to advertise competitive offerings;
  • Use of the regulated utility name and logo for nonregulated competitive offerings;
  • Use of utility trucks, paid for by ratepayers, to provide competitive offerings;
  • Referral of customers of the regulated utility to prequalified contractors in exchange for an undisclosed “kickback” to the utility;
  • Failure to competitively bid services that are then offered to the competitive affiliate of the utility below cost;
  • The ability to maintain common employees between the regulated and competitive divisions of the utility;
  • Common computer systems and information databases shared between the regulated utility and its nonregulated competitive affiliates; and
  • Shared billings and collections between regulated, essential utility services and nonregulated competitive offerings.

According to Briggs, “The commission needs to examine the serious need for major changes to the presently ineffective Codes of Conduct. It should not try to prevent the evidence from coming out and thus denying the abuses actually going on in the marketplace now by the utilities.”