Originally created 01/27/99

Atlanta Gas Light will issue refunds



ATLANTA -- Atlanta Gas Light reversed the unpopular pricing practices in use since October that generated 20,000 complaint calls daily and agreed Tuesday to issue $14.5 million in refunds.

The company reached an agreement Tuesday with staff from the Public Service Commission on its rate rollback, and the commission formally endorsed the plan in a called meeting later in the day.

"Most of our customers will get some sort of credit on their bills," said Atlanta Gas Light President Paula Rosput.

The average customer will get back $3.70.

In addition, an estimated 260,000 customers who were most impacted by sharply higher bills during the past three months will get checks set for mailing by Valentine's Day. Refunds for the average hard-hit customer will range from $20 for residential accounts to $380 for industrial users, PSC staff estimated.

The revised rates take effect Feb. 1, and base charges will be on usage rather than the controversial practice of billing customers for their potential peak demand.

"The more you use, the more you pay of these charges; the less you use, the less you pay," she said.

Some customers saw bills triple from one month to the next even though their use of gas was modest. Hardest hit were customers who use gas just for heating.

However, increases on some bills were balanced by decreases on others, Ms. Rosput said, proving that the company didn't profit from its pricing strategy.

Ms. Rosput said she hopes the episode won't leave customers with a bad impression of the company or its affiliate, Georgia Natural Gas.

Walter Jones is based in Atlanta and can be reached at (404) 589-8424 or mnews@mindspring.com.