There is an unfair advantage in using the name of a 140-year-oldutility when marketing gas in Georgia, the state public servicecommission ruled Friday, ordering Atlanta Gas Light Services (AGLS)to market gas in the state under a different brand until AtlantaGas Light Co. exits the merchant function.
The commission, however, will allow the utility affiliate to usea disclaimer revealing that it is another subsidiary of AGLResources. But it also must remind customers it gains no advantageover other marketers through that affiliation. Following the rulingthe marketing company said it was considering its options.
The PSC’s decision followed an appeal by AGLS of a June 23decision by a PSC hearing officer. Hearing Officer Philip Smithruled the marketing affiliate could not use “Atlanta Gas Light” inits name because it would “mislead the public.” Smith said the useof the name violated the standards of conduct set out in GeorgiaNatural gas Competition and Deregulation Act.
The utility affiliate decided to change its name to Atlanta GasLight Services from The Energy Spring in April, triggering a numberof protests from other marketers. AGLS seems to have intended touse the utility’s name from the beginning, having registered it in1996.
AGLS claimed the hearing officer’s decision actually would”reduce competition” and was an “unprecedented, over-broad andpunitive restriction on free speech.”
However, the PSC ruled that although restricting use of theutility name may interfere with its commercial free speech “suchinterference is necessary to accomplish this substantial interestin promoting market-based competition.”
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