Sunday, November 05, 2006


Gas Company Screw Job

Our natural gas company offers its customers a payment plan called the Budget Plan, in which the customer pays the same fee every month, rather than pay large gas bills in the winter and small ones in the summer. This is most helpful to customers who are less well off and can't necessarily afford winter bills that run hundreds of dollars. Our Budget Plan bill is currently $87 per month. The Budget Plan worked fine for us each of the 15 years we'd been on it. Every August, we'd have a complete break from paying a gas bill because our Budget Plan was enough to pay for the other eleven months. The same would've happened this year, except that the gas company changed its payment policies. Come this past August,one of those policy changes became very apparent. Now, even though we still had a credit, we had to pay the monthly amount in August. No break from the gas bill. I called to complain, but my protest fell on deaf ears.

Think about this. If, every year in August for the past 15 years we've had a credit, then it stands to reason that we'll have a credit next August, as well. And the August after that, and the August after that. Exactly what is the gas company doing with all that extra money they're collecting? It's a sure bet they're putting it to work by investing it. Making money off our money.

But, it gets even better. The last couple of years, the gas company has sent us an offer for a new type of payment plan called the No Surprise Bill. Verbatim, here's the offer:

"If you enroll, you agree to pay your No Surprise Bill amount each month for 12 months starting this December. This amount would cover all of your gas charges. Even when natural gas prices change and weather conditions cause your gas use to change, your No Surprise Bill amount WILL NOT change. At the end of the program year, gas price and usage related balances WILL NOT be carried forward so you could pay more or less under the No Surprise Bill than you would with other billing options, including the Budget Plan, which use fluctuating natural gas prices and actual gas use."

Here's the kicker: Our No Surprise Bill amount is set at $113.45. Hmmm. Let me see . . . I'm supposed to voluntarily pay the gas company even more money than I already do so they can invest it and make their stockholders happy? I don't think so.

Do you think most of the stockholders are using these payment plans? Oh, wait, silly me! Of course not! It''s easier to screw the poor little guy.

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