ATLANTA -- Surprise charges on natural-gas bills are expected to be less likely -- even with deregulation and 20 companies competing -- after passage of new slamming rules drafted by the Public Service Commission.
Modeled on anti-slamming prohibitions governing the Georgia telephone industry, the new rules should be in place when heaters are needed this fall.
In the past year, the PSC received about 580 consumer complaints about suspicious charges on phone bills, called "slamming." The five companies getting the most complaints include 177 about MCI, 33 about AT&T, 29 about US Sprint, 48 about Long Distance Charges Inc., 34 about Business Discount Plan, plus 14 about BellSouth.
The proposed rules include fines for failure to follow set procedures designed to protect customers. Marketers can only call between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. to solicit, and all orders they get must be confirmed and executed promptly.
Every time a company gets a new customer, it must send an acknowledgement letter within seven business days that details rates, services and how to reach the company.
Gas companies have until July 7 to comment on the proposed rules. The PSC is scheduled to vote on them July 20.