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Industry News

Columbia Gas of Ohio Sacks Shaky Supplier

LCG, Sept. 11, 2000Columbia Gas of Ohio has kicked a "competitive energy provider" out of its customer choice program for failing to deliver the goods, if natural gas can be called "goods."

The utility said it terminated Youngstown-based Energy Max of Northeast Ohio Inc. after the gas supplier failed to deliver the commodity to Columbia for distribution to 8,000 customers for most of August. Columbia dipped into its own gas supplies to keep the customers' pilot lights burning.

Columbia said it has mailed a letter to each of Energy Max's customers telling them they are free to sign up with another competitive supplier or fall back on Columbia, which will charge them only what the gas costs the company.

"We regret taking this action, but we were obligated to do so in order to protect the integrity of theprogram and ensure the reliable delivery of gas to the customers," said Carol Fox, Columbia's director of marketer services. "We attempted unsuccessfully to work through this issue with Energy Max, and took action as soon as we became aware that this was going to be a continuing situation."

Fox said that by failing to deliver gas for its customers and forcing Columbia to serve as the supplier of last resort, Energy Max violated a code of conduct that all suppliers must agree to before they are admitted to the customer choice program.

She also pointed out that the episode proves the choice program is working. "Customers were protected by Columbia's serving as the backup gas supplier, and they have the option to choose another supplier if they wish. And, while their level of savings may be different with Columbia or another supplier, no customer should lose money," she said.

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