Having called, like thousands of other Georgians, Georgia Natural Gas, for residential service, I have found practices which seem questionable as to their benefit to Georgia customers of GNG. While the delivery of Natural Gas to residential customers was deregulated a decade ago, it may be time to review a policy that has failed to benefit Georgia consumers of Natural Gas, and may indeed penalize consumers with additional “service” and “marketing” charges. Before anyone thinks that re-regulation of the provision of natural gas to residential customers is an unwarranted intrusion on private enterprise, consider that the electrical utility service providers were not deregulated and deliver energy to homes at a lower cost per therm than natural gas, even though the cost to produce and deliver a therm of natural gas is significantly less than the same BTU value of electricity.
My inquiry to the Georgia Public Service Commission is as follows:
I have requested service from GNG, today, 12-23-2011. My service confirmation number is 347501. A pre-pay amount of $41.02 was requested. When I attempted to pay this amount due today, I was referred to a phone number for Western Union. When I called the number, It was answered by an associate in an offshore location, not by an American, who informed me of a charge of $3.95. When I declined to pay over the phone, I was referred to a location, a mini market, where I would be charged from $.60 to S1.50 for the privilege of paying in person. Arriving at the location I discerned it was owned by a non-American, a Pakistani national. I do no do business with non-citizens, legal or otherwise, and will not do so until all unemployed American Citizens have been offered employment. Off shore calling centers and foreigner owned companies which employ unpaid family members and extended family members, skirting employment requirements and minimum pay requirements, are companies with whom I do not do business. The sole remaining option is to mail my pre-payment to GNG, which I certainly will do, but I must first wait 48 hours for my account number to be issued, and then, according to the GNG website, wait up to 7 days until it is posted, before I can schedule service turn-on. My complaint is simply this: why does the GA PSC allow GNG to use “pay to play” third-party companies, regardless of national origin, to collect deposits and payments? Should the fees charged by these companies not be refunded by GNG? After all, those fees are being charged and collected by these third parties, in this case Western Union, at the behest of GNG, and should be credited to the account of the customer, or at the least calculated as income in PSC rate computations. As such fees are apparently not regulated by the GA PSC, they should not be allowed, or if allowed, they should be refunded to consumers. GNG has devised a pay by mail program that forces most applicants to choose to pay Western Union these “service” fees, or wait up to nine days to schedule turning on gas service. Another question, does GNG receive any financial benefit for contracting these services out to Western Union; or any consideration that is not reported to the PSC? Should not the policy of the PSC be to encourage employment of Georgia Citizens, after all, are they not the State of Georgia taxpayers that support both the GA PSC and the revenue stream of GNG? Lastly, should not utility companies doing business in Georgia be required to maintain at least one store front in Georgia wherein business may be conducted in person by the consumers and citizens of Georgia? Thank you for your concern.