Even though temperatures are still fairly warm, fall’s much cooler weather is just around the corner! Before you know it we will be turning on our heat to keep warm during the colder fall and winter months. Historically, September has been a good time to lock in a “fixed” natural gas rate (i.e., a rate which remains the same over the term of the contract). If you would prefer not to lock in to a fixed rate contract, you may also choose a gas marketer’s “variable” rate plan which, as its name suggests, varies from month to month, depending on market conditions. The rate may increase, decrease or stay the same from one month to the next.
The Georgia Public Service Commission is the best resource for comparing prices among the natural gas marketers that provide service to the 1.5 million customers on Atlanta Gas Light Company’s (AGL) system. Select the “Natural Gas Marketers’ Prices” link at the PSC Home page, to review information each marketer files on a monthly basis regarding its fixed and variable rate plan offerings. The PSC home page also has a link to a “Natural Gas Scorecard” which includes information about the number of billing, service and deceptive marketing complaints received by the PSC each month for each of the natural gas marketers.
If you know someone who does not have access to the Internet, the PSC’s Consumer Affairs division will send that person a hard copy of the monthly marketer pricing charts and/or natural gas scorecard, free of charge. In metro Atlanta, call 404-656-4501. If outside of metro Atlanta, call toll-free: 800-282-5813.
Some things to consider as you think about which type of plan (fixed or variable) may best suit your needs:
- Your current natural gas marketer may impose an early termination fee if you switch away from this marketer before the expiration of your fixed-rate contract . It is important to weigh the benefits of locking in at a lower per-therm rate and, perhaps, a lower monthly customer service charge, against the amount of the early termination fee you may incur in order to make a fully informed decision.
- If you decide to switch from one marketer to another (whether you sign up for a fixed rate or a variable rate with the new marketer) you must call the new marketer to request the switch no later than the 19th of each month in order for the switch to take effect by the 1st of the next month.
- Terms and conditions vary by marketer, so you should confirm all the details before you agree to any pricing plan. Request verification of your contract terms in writing.
- Unless a customer notifies her marketer before the expiration date of a fixed-rate plan, the marketer will switch (or “default”) the customer to a variable rate plan, the monthly per-therm rate of which may be higher than what the customer was paying when locked in to the fixed-rate plan.
- Pay close attention to any correspondence received from your marketer (whether via U.S. mail or e-mail) regarding the upcoming expiration of your fixed-rate contract termSenior Citizen rate plans: Some marketers offer plans available to all consumers 65 years of age or older, while other senior citizen plans are based on income limits.
- Additionally, low-income senior citizens qualify for a monthly discount of either $14.00 or the total amount of the AGL base charge, whichever is less. (See “Senior Citizens Discounts” link at the PSC homepage, or contact AGL or your marketer to see if you qualify and to request an AGL senior citizen discount application.)
PSC rules provide that all customers are entitled to switch marketers once within any 12-month period without incurring the $7.50 AGL switch fee. For more information, call Georgia Watch at (404) 525-1085.