Don’t Get Gassed: TURN is not convinced that gas deregulation can save customers money.
Dear Consumer Advisor,
I’ve received a couple of calls from gas companies claiming they can provide me with service at much lower rates than PG&E. I’d love to lower my bills, but I’m skeptical and suspicious of theses high-pressure sales calls. Does this sound like a scam or a good way to lower my gas bill?
Sincerely, Dontwanna Getgassed
You are right to be skeptical. TURN has received many calls from consumers who are getting the hard sell from companies claiming they can lower your gas bills. Such claims may not pan out. All gas suppliers get gas from the same sources. PG&E passes the cost of the gas itself on to customers, and only makes a profit from delivering it, which leaves little opportunity for these alternate gas companies to beat PG&E’s prices.
The offer of lower bills is certainly attractive, but you’ll need to look very carefully at what is actually being offered, because even if you change companies and purchase your gas from another company, you will have to pay PG&E to deliver it.
The most important advice I can give you is to go over the offering and the contract with a fine-tooth comb before signing anything. These gas contracts may lock you- and your rates- in for a year or two, even if wholesale costs go down.
And remember, your gas bill most likely will be highest in the winter—one way to compare rates is to compare PG&E’s “procurement” rates for the previous winter months with the alternate supplier’s rates for the same months.
TURN is not convinced that gas deregulation can save customers money. If you are considering switching to an alternate gas provider, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Ask whether there are any monthly customer charges in addition to the cost of gas.
- A deposit may be required.
- Early termination of the contract may trigger penalties.
- To compare prices, call your utility and ask where you can find their historical monthly gas “procurement” rates, and gas price forecasts for next year.
- If you’re worried about bills going up or down, consider getting a balanced payment plan from your current utility company.
- If you run into trouble paying your gas bills, you will have two companies to deal with.
The best way to lower your gas bill is to lower your usage. Here are some simple ways to do that:
- In winter months, lower the thermostat to 68 degrees during the daytime if it is safe to do so.
- Install and use a programmable thermostat, especially if you are not at home for large chunks of the day.
- Cut your shower time in half to reduce your water heating costs by a third.
- Set the water heater to 120 degrees or the “normal” setting.
- Wash clothes in cold water instead of hot.
- Open blinds and drapes on sunny days.
- Microwave small amounts of food instead of heating them up in the oven.
If you do decide to try an alternate company, let me know how it goes!
TURN Organizing Director
Note: The above article originally named Tiger Natural Gas as one of several companies about which TURN has received calls from consumers who say they are getting hard sell offers to lower gas bills. TURN has since received a letter from Tiger asking TURN to remove its name from the article. In the interest of avoiding potentially costly litigation that could divert TURN’s resources from other higher priority work, TURN has agreed to remove Tiger’s name from the article and to publish this statement. The article did not state or intend to suggest that TURN has evidence that Tiger, or any other gas supplier named in the article, provided misleading or deceptive information to consumers. In addition, TURN has revised the original article to clarify our advice to consumers.