Sales pitch offers lower gas rates, bills go up instead

Michael Finney Image
Saturday, January 20, 2018
This is an undated image of a PG&E meter.
This is an undated image of a PG&E meter.

SAN BRUNO, Calif. (KGO) -- The State Public Utilities Commission opened the way years ago for independent gas companies to sell you their gas. So you may see them in your neighborhood now -- salespeople going door-to-door, offering a way to save money on your gas bill.

San Bruno resident Jane Fontaine thought so -- until she and her husband saw their bill. It had more than doubled.

She was quoted a low rate, compared to PG&E. But what she didn't realize was that she now had two gas companies -- and two bills.

Fontaine says she was approached by two sales people from a gas company last year.

"They started talking to me about Just Energy,'' Fontaine recalls.

The sales people told her she could save on gas by switching from PG&E to their company - Just Energy, based in Canada.

"They said how much better it was than PG&E, how it was much more reasonably priced,'' she recalls.

Fontaine thought about that devastating PG&E gas explosion that happened about eight years ago, not far from her home.

"A couple people I know were in that fire,'' Fontaine said. "I thought, this was a completely different company. Maybe they had up-to-date equipment. It played a big factor that maybe it was better to go through Just Energy than PG&E."

However, she says things did not turn out as she expected. She signed up but when when she and her husband got their first bill-it was a shock.

"The bill doubled,'' said her husband, Frank Mostert. "Doubled. Literally doubled."

The couple realized they were now paying two companies for their gas instead of just one.

Why? Like most independent gas companies, Just Energy only provides the gas itself. PG&E still charges to deliver the gas to your home.

So on top of their PG&E bill, the couple was now also paying Just Energy a flat fee of $29.95 per month. And they didn't have the benefit of newer gas lines as they expected either.

"I called them and said, I want to cancel,'' Fontaine said. "This is not what my husband and I wanted."

"You never told us we would still be paying PG&E and you,'' Mostert added.

The billing stopped, for a while.

"And then they turned around and billed us again a month or two later,'' Mostert said.

The couple says they kept calling to cancel, yet charges kept appearing on their bill. They contacted ABC 7 On Your Side. We contacted Just Energy. It tells us the company hires independent companies to verify enrollment information for all customers including Fontaine and Mostert. The call in part is "to confirm that we do not guarantee financial savings."

As for the cancellation, the company said a system error delayed that transaction and the company agreed to refund the extra charges.

"Nothing happened until 7 On Your Side got involved,'' Mostert said.

"It was a relief,'' Fontaine said. "For me, it was a huge relief."

The takeaway for everyone: If a salesperson offers you a low rate for gas, remember that will not include delivery. Only PG&E has the pipelines to deliver it to your home or business. And those charges general form the bulk of what you pay for gas.

Written and produced by Renee Koury

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