OCC Goes After Troubled Marketer
Almost a month and a half after being kicked out of Columbia Gas of
Ohio's Customer Choice program for failure to deliver gas to its customers
in August, Ohio marketer Energy Max has found itself at the epicenter of
a complaint lodged by the Ohio Consumers Council (OCC) in the interests
of the marketer's customers.
The council said after an investigation and unsuccessful attempts to
negotiate with Energy Max on behalf of its 8,000 Northeast Ohio customers,
it has requested the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to find
that Energy Max acted inappropriately and in violation of Ohio Law by failing
to deliver gas to its customers (see NGI, Sept.
11). Energy Max said it got caught up in this summer's price spike,
and simply ran out of cash.
"We would like to get the commission to give us an affirmative
ruling that Energy Max has broken the rules, which will give us an advantage
if we go to civil court to seek damages," said OCC spokeswoman Maureen
Miller. "In the end we are trying to put money back in peoples' pockets."
Energy Max's customers had fixed rate contracts between $0.315 per ccf
and $0.465 per ccf. When Energy Max failed to deliver, Columbia Gas was
forced to become supplier of last resort and impose its $0.624 per ccf
on Energy Max's old customers. Even though these customers still have the
choice to sign up with another marketer, if they are still with Columbia
Gas they are subject to the current regulated price of $0.738 per ccf .
"We will do everything within our power to see that each and every
customer receives the compensation they deserve," said Robert S. Tongren,
Ohio Consumers' Counsel. "It is an insult to the success of the Customer
CHOICEr program, and a violation of the suppliers code of conduct, to fail
to provide reliable service and gas delivery to all participating residential
The OCC said it will continue to monitor all of Ohio's natural gas choice
programs to protect the over 3 million natural gas customers in the state.
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