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AGLS Appeals Brand-Name Ruling

July 6, 1998
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AGLS Appeals Brand-Name Ruling

Atlanta Gas Light Services has vowed to fight a decision by a Georgia Public Service Commission hearing officer that would prohibit the company from using the name of its utility affiliate, Atlanta Gas Light. The marketing affiliate filed an appeal June 26, contending the initial decision, if upheld, would "reduce competition in direct violation of the statutory purposes of the [Georgia] Natural Gas Act" when the deregulated market opens this fall.

AGL said the decision was an "unprecedented, over-broad and punitive restriction on free speech. Requiring Atlanta Gas Light Services to use a pseudonym and to conceal its true identity will also deprive Georgia consumers of truthful information that will enable them to make a reasoned choice of a natural gas supplier," the AGLS appeal states.

The company supported its position with the conclusions of an economics professor at the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences at the University of California-Irvine. Arthur De Vany, who is co-author of The Emerging New Order in Natural Gas: Markets vs. Regulation and has prepared written testimony on competition in natural gas markets for FERC, said he sees "absolutely no reason whatsoever for an affiliate marketer not to use the parent's name. To do so, he added, "actually denies consumers of the right to information they might want to use."

The hearing officer's ruling concluded, however, that the marketing affiliate should "rely on the reputation it builds as a separate entity and its own business acumen to secure customers in Georgia, just as all other marketers."

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