The Ohio Consumers' Counsel, a residential utility advocate, filed suit Friday in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas against D&L Gas Marketing, a natural gas supplier based in Youngstown, OH.
The lawsuit alleges that D&L breached its contracts with more than 4,500 customers in the Columbia Gas of Ohio Customer Choice program.
The action results from an investigation and follows unsuccessful attempts at negotiating a resolution with D&L. The OCC's complaint alleges that under the terms and conditions of D&L's contract, the company was allowed to terminate service with a customer at the end of the initial 12-month contract term or if a customer failed to make payments. Because D&L withdrew from the program and did not follow its conditions for termination, the OCC believes that D&L has breached its contract with 4,500 residential consumers. The OCC is seeking monetary damages for all affected customers.
In late July and early August, D&L sent letters to each of its 4,500 customers giving notice that as of Nov. 1, 2000, the company would withdraw as a natural gas supplier from the Columbia Gas choice program. The customers, who had enrolled under a 12-month service contract, were given 90 days to switch to another natural gas supplier or to return to Columbia Gas at its higher regulated rate.
“D&L's actions have caused financial harm to its customers. As the residential utility advocate, the OCC is determined to see that all affected customers receive the compensation they deserve,” said Robert S. Tongren, consumers' counsel.
This marks the second time since October that the OCC has sued a natural gas supplier in the Columbia Gas choice program for failure to meet contractual obligations. The OCC filed a complaint with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on Oct. 27, 2000, against Energy Max for failure to provide reliable service and gas supply to its customers in August this year.
“We cannot allow someone to jeopardize the economic democracy that this choice program has provided Ohio consumers,” Tongren said. “Too many people have worked too hard to make Ohio's program a national model. We are taking
this action now to maintain the integrity of the choice program.”