Georgia PSC Bars AGLS from Using Atlanta Gas Light Name
There is an unfair advantage in using the name of a 140-year-old
utility when marketing gas in Georgia, the state public service
commission ruled Friday, ordering Atlanta Gas Light Services (AGLS)
to market gas in the state under a different brand until Atlanta
Gas Light Co. exits the merchant function.
The commission, however, will allow the utility affiliate to use
a disclaimer revealing that it is another subsidiary of AGL
Resources. But it also must remind customers it gains no advantage
over other marketers through that affiliation.
The PSC's decision followed an appeal by AGLS of a June 23
decision by a PSC hearing officer. Hearing Officer Philip Smith
ruled the marketing affiliate could not use "Atlanta Gas Light" in
its name because it would "mislead the public." Smith said the use
of the name violated the standards of conduct set out in Georgia
Natural Gas Competition and Deregulation Act.
The utility affiliate decided to change its name to Atlanta Gas
Light Services from The Energy Spring in April, triggering a number
of protests from other marketers. AGLS seems to have intended to
use the utility's name from the beginning, having registered it in
AGLS claimed the hearing officer's decision actually would
"reduce competition in direct violation of the statutory purposes
of the [Georgia] natural gas act" when the deregulated market opens
this fall. The company also said the decision was an
"unprecedented, over-broad and punitive restriction on free
However, the PSC ruled that although depriving the company of
using the utility name may interfere with its commercial free
speech "such interference is necessary to accomplish this
substantial interest in promoting market-based competition."
The commission said it will allow the utility affiliate to use a
disclaimer with its new name following the "transition" toward
competition. It suggested the following: "[the company] is a
subsidiary of AGL Resources, Inc. No advantage accrues to customers
or others in the use of Atlanta Gas Light Company's services as a
result of customers dealing with [the company]."
Once competition "has developed beyond its infancy the less
restrictive means of a disclaimer should be adequate to address the
state's interest in promoting market-based competition."
The PSC said it eventually might allow AGLS to use the
utility's name "in a particular delivery group after a finding by
the Commission that adequate market conditions exist and upon
Atlanta Gas Light Company ceasing to provide merchant functions in
that delivery group.."
AGLS still vowed to fight the ruling, saying it would "continue
to support the consumers' right to know from whom they buy their
gas as well as a company's right to use the name to which it is
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