7 On Your Side helps Martinez man struggling with gas bill

MARTINEZ, Calif. (KGO) -- Robert Riggins, 85, is environmentally conscious. Hhe even captures the runoff from this rain spout and fills this bucket to water his plants.

"They say in California we need to conserve our energy and conserve our water," said Riggins.

Saving energy, water and money are important to him. His wife Deline handled all their bills until her recent death. Robert would soon discover he was paying a company other than PG&E for his natural gas.

The company on the man's bill, Vista Energy, is one of more than a dozen third party companies authorized to sell natural gas directly to customers.

But Riggins was paying Vista for gas but still paying PG&E to deliver that gas to him through PG&E's lines. It wasn't something Robert wanted.

"I was quite happy with PG&E supplying me with gas," he said.

It turns out that Robert has been getting his gas from Vista Energy since 2009. He thinks his wife may have arranged that without him knowing it.

Alternative gas companies such as Vista can save you money, but it can be risky. You're locked into a price for one full year.

If the price of natural gas goes up, you save money.

"If the price of gas goes down, you're locked into a higher price than you're going to pay with PG&E," explained Mark Toney with The Utility Reform Network, or TURN.

Robert asked 7 On Your Side's Michael Finney to help him switch back to PG&E. Vista told says that switching to Vista Energy offers competitive rates to its customers.

"He was a valued customer who signed up over the phone and when he asked to cancel, his account was cancelled immediately."

Right about the same time, another company wrote Robert thanking him for choosing them as his natural gas provider, which Robert didn't remember doing.

He cancelled immediately and was never billed.

Commerce told 7 On You Side, "we can confirm Mr. Riggins did provide consent to enroll in a Commerce energy program."

Riggins called to cancel the program, which was processed by Commerce Energy on the same day.

"I don't know what we would do without Mr. Finney," said Riggins.

For more information, you can visit TURN's website by clicking here. The CPUC has also helpful information you access by clicking here.

Click here for more 7 on Your Side stories.
Copyright © 2019 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.