PSC Investigates Georgia Natural Gas Customer Back-Billing
Georgia's leading natural gas marketer, Georgia Natural Gas Co.,
has been back-billing "several thousand" customers for charges that
date back as far as a year, according to officials with the Georgia
Public Service Commission. That news comes as the PSC deferred
consideration until Nov. 20 of proposed new rules which would
require marketers to provide efficient billing to customers.
The PSC said it had obtained an Oct. 30 confidential company
memo written on SouthStar Energy Services/Georgia Natural Gas
letterhead, which reportedly said, "approximately 41,000 accounts
need resolution to finalize the audit and billing improvement
plans." The memo continued, "these are accounts that for some
reason did not bill 100% of the applicable base charges."
The memo also provided a script for customer service personnel
to use for complaining customers, which reads: "Georgia Natural Gas
has conducted a thorough audit to ensure that each customer has
been billed correctly. In addition, we will never bill a customer
for more than 12 base charges in one calendar year."
SouthStar Energy, which does business as Georgia Natural Gas in
Georgia, is an alliance of AGL Resources Inc., Dynegy Inc. and
Piedmont Natural Gas Co. Georgia Natural Gas serves more than
500,000 customers, and the back-billing accounts are being done on
accounts missing up to eight monthly base charges, including
monthly charges from Atlanta Gas Light for distributing gas and
According to Georgia Natural Gas, customers billed for eight
months-base charges would have up to four months to pay. PSC
Commissioner Bobby Baker said that Georgia Natural Gas did not bill
customers for meters not read in a certain month. Instead, when the
meters were read and the multiple charges were sent, the bills did
not include base charges.
The PSC is set to discuss a proposed rule authored by Baker on
Nov. 20, which would forgive bills more than 90 days late and put
the burden on marketers to provide efficient billing. Marketers in
the state are opposed to the proposal. PSC also may rule on the two
latest applications to enter the Georgia market as early as Nov.
21. The New Power Company and PowerTrust.com both have requested
entrance to Georgia's two-year-old deregulated market, and would
both use the Internet to market electricity and natural gas.
Georgia now has 12 certified marketers, down from 21 at the
start of deregulation two years ago. Three suppliers have declared
bankruptcy (see NGI, Sept. 4). Three marketers, including Georgia
Natural Gas, Scana Energy and Shell Energy, control 85% of
Georgia's deregulated market, now numbering about 1.5 million homes
Carolyn Davis, Houston
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