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GPSC to Discuss Resolution On Energy America's LIHEAP Infractions

GPSC to Discuss Resolution On Energy America's LIHEAP Infractions

Finding itself in hot water again in the peach state, Energy America, Centrica's U.S. retail gas marketing subsidiary, will have a proposed stipulation -- aimed at resolving its Low Income Heat Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) problems -- heard by the Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) on Tuesday (Jan. 6).

The Commission hopes to resolve issues at its regular administrative session related to the company's failure to properly credit payments from LIHEAP to customers' accounts. According to the proposed stipulation, at least 54 Energy America customers were improperly disconnected as a result of the Stamford, CT-based marketer's failure to credit the LIHEAP payments. If the GPSC accepts the proposed stipulation, the company would pay $54,000 into the LIHEAP fund, in addition to crediting each customer who was wrongly disconnected $125. The total amount of these payments would be $60,750.

If approved, the stipulation would also require the company to pay each customer $5 for each day they were disconnected. If the commission identifies additional customers who were disconnected in error, the company would make a $1,000 payment to LIHEAP for each additional customer. The GPSC noted that these extra payments could raise the overall amount the company would pay under this stipulation.

In October of 2003, Energy America announced that it was calling it quits in the Georgia retail gas market after struggling to build its customer base in the state in 2002 and then being hit with a fine and other penalties by the GPSC for slamming (see Daily GPI, Oct. 8, 2003; Oct. 10, 2003).

In September 2003, the GPSC slapped Energy America with a $413,800 fine for 138 allegations of slamming customers, which is switching a consumer's natural gas marketer without the consumer's authorization. The commission ordered the company to contribute $400,000 to LIHEAP, with no tax benefits from the contribution, plus $100 in credits to each of the 138 customers slammed for a total payment of $413,800. In addition, Energy America was ordered to pay $5 to each customer for each day that they were not returned to their preferred provider after being slammed. It was the largest fine ever handed down against a Georgia natural gas marketer, and was the fourth fine in 2003 against a retail marketer.

Last month, Scana Energy announced a definitive agreement Thursday to acquire Energy America LLC's 50,000 customers in the Georgia for an undisclosed amount (see Daily GPI, Dec. 19, 2003). The transaction, subject to regulatory approval, is expected to close by March.

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