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Georgia PSC Softens Ultimatum to Customers

May 24, 1999
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Georgia PSC Softens Ultimatum to Customers

The Georgia Public Service Commission (GPSC) unanimously decided last week to allow customers to switch from Atlanta Gas Light (AGL) after the previously-determined Aug. 11 deadline, the date when the Commission determines market share among the competing suppliers. Commissioner Robert Baker said the vote will help dispel the rumor of Aug. 11 being a drop-dead date.

"On Aug. 11, the GPSC will take a snapshot of the market, then begin the process that will allocate customers according to market share. We feel it is important for people to still be able to switch from AGL after Aug. 11."

Baker said the only serious opposition to the vote came from Scana. "Scana felt all customer choice should terminate after the Aug. 11 deadline, but that is not what the law says," Baker said.

Scana accrued the largest number of customers since the state deregulated in November with over 300,000 of the 700,000 total switches. After obtaining 40% of the market share, Scana halted its marketing efforts. Other marketers are still active, and this decision gives them more time to make up ground. Baker said Georgia Natural Gas is marketing to customers who haven't left AGL yet by promoting itself as a sister company of the gas utility.

Baker also conceded that problems may arise from this decision. Customers who switch after the deadline run the risk of still ending up on a random assignment list. "There will probably be some snafus," Baker said. "If a customer switches after the deadline and the paperwork isn't processed by the time the random assignment lists are made up, some confusion might result. The company chosen by the customer will override anything else. Hopefully this will only happen to a manageable amount of people."

Last month, the GPSC determined there was enough market competition to begin phasing AGL out of the merchant function. The Commission notified all customers who hadn't already switched from AGL that they had 100 days to do so. After the 100-day period, which ends Aug. 11, the GPSC will assign any customers who haven't switched from the utility to a marketer on a market share basis.

John Norris

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