Understand your options before you sign a consumer agreement
SURREY, BC, March 16 /CNW/ - Since the launch of the Customer Choice residential program nearly three years ago, Terasen Gas has participated in the development of various education activities, including providing program information to residents on its website, through customer service representatives, and the use of print material.
"We encourage customers to take their time and make the choice that's right for them. Part of that is reviewing information about Customer Choice - either from the guide the gas marketer is required to provide them or from the Terasen Gas website," said Doug Stout, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, Terasen Gas. "Feel free to ask the marketer questions about the terms of the contract, including the length of the contract, the price of the gas throughout the duration of the contract, and what happens if you move. Customers can find more questions to ask a gas marketer on our website."
Through the Customer Choice program, licensed natural gas marketers can sell long-term, fixed price natural gas contracts to residential natural gas users in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Interior and Kootenays. Previously, it was only possible to purchase natural gas from Terasen Gas at a variable rate as approved by the B.C. Utilities Commission (BCUC).
Details about the Customer Choice program, including a comprehensive guide, informational video, and questions to ask a gas marketer, are available on terasengas.com (http://www.terasengas.com/Homes/CustomerChoiceApply/default.htm). Customers may also consider the following information when deciding if Customer Choice is right for them:
- Gas prices quoted by marketers are not regulated by the BCUC;
however, the BCUC is responsible for licensing gas marketing
companies and ensuring they adhere to a code of conduct.
- Most gas marketers have the discretion to allow customers to return
to the Terasen Gas variable rate on the anniversary date of the
contract. Gas marketer contract penalties and stipulations that arise
from the early termination of contracts vary. Terasen Gas does not
charge any fees if a customer chooses to return to the variable rate.
- If customers have a problem with their gas marketer agreement, they
should first contact the marketer to resolve the matter. If the issue
is not resolved, customers can initiate logging a dispute about their
gas marketer agreement by contacting Terasen Gas customer service.
"Customers who wish to return to the Terasen Gas variable rate should check their contract for details and should contact their marketer at least 90 days before the anniversary date of their contract if they want to terminate it," said Stout. "Terasen Gas supports natural gas marketers to find solutions to offer competitive fixed price rates for customers. Currently, marketers are able to establish solutions such as rebates outside of the program rules - this keeps the cost and benefit to those directly involved."
All parties involved in the Customer Choice program work together to improve the program continually. Each year, the program is reviewed by Terasen Gas, the BCUC, various customer groups and all licensed gas marketers. The review process identifies opportunities to improve the program for current and future customers, and involves a workshop to discuss the business rules of the program, systems solutions, and customer information and education. Based on the workshop discussion, Terasen Gas submits recommendations for changes and improvements to the BCUC in the form of a report describing what should be approved and implemented. The most recent report was filed by Terasen Gas last October, and a decision was provided by the BCUC this February. The report is available on terasengas.com and bcuc.com.
See backgrounder for more information on the Customer Choice program.
Terasen Gas is mainly composed of the operations of Terasen Gas Inc. and Terasen Gas (Vancouver Island) Inc., both indirect wholly owned subsidiaries of Fortis Inc. Fortis Inc., the largest investor-owned distribution utility in Canada, serves approximately 2,100,000 gas and electric customers and has total assets exceeding $12 billion. Its regulated holdings include Terasen Gas and electric utilities in five Canadian provinces and three Caribbean countries. Fortis Inc. owns non-regulated hydroelectric generation assets across Canada and in Belize and upper New York State. It also owns hotels and commercial real estate in Canada. Fortis Inc. shares are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and trade under the symbol FTS. Additional information can be accessed at www.fortisinc.com or www.sedar.com.
Customer Choice backgrounder
In 2002, the B.C. provincial government laid the groundwork for increased consumer choice in its 2002 Energy Policy, with a statement about its desire to provide more choice for small volume natural gas consumers. Small volume consumers include residential and many commercial users. Around the same time, research conducted by Terasen Gas revealed that customers wanted help to manage their gas costs with options that included long-term, fixed-rate contracts.
In 2004, a portion of B.C.'s natural gas market was opened to competition, allowing many commercial customers to purchase gas from companies other than Terasen Gas. In 2006, the B.C. Utilities Commission took the final step in introducing greater customer choice by allowing residential customers to purchase natural gas from companies other than Terasen Gas. Residential customers in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Interior and Kootenays have been able to sign contracts with gas marketers since May 1, 2007. Residential and commercial customers can choose to buy natural gas from gas marketers or they can continue to buy natural gas from Terasen Gas. Gas marketers are allowed to offer fixed price contracts for a minimum duration of one year, and in one-year increments, up to a maximum of five years.
Gas marketers are independent companies that sell natural gas directly to customers. They make money by selling natural gas under different pricing terms and conditions related to pricing. They use a variety of buying strategies to source their gas and then sell it using different pricing arrangements that allow them to earn a profit. The Terasen Gas variable rate is a flow-through cost to customers, meaning customers pay what we pay for the gas. Terasen Gas does not earn a profit from the sale of the natural gas commodity.
Some questions to ask a gas marketer before you sign a long-term supply contract:
Cover the basics:
- What is your price in Canadian dollars per gigajoule of gas?
- How long is the term of this contract?
- Is the price per gigajoule of gas fixed over the entire term of the
contract or can it vary?
- How does your gas price compare to other gas marketers' fixed prices
and Terasen Gas' variable prices?
- What will happen to my gas supply contract if I move?
Understand the terms of the contract:
- What is the start and end date of this contract?
- What are the contract's renewal provisions?
- If I am not satisfied with the agreement and want to cancel within
the 10-day cancellation period, what is the best way to contact you?
- After my 10-day cancellation period has ended, what are the rights
and penalties for early termination of the agreement?
- Does this contract end at the expiration date, or will it roll over
into another contract if you receive no further direction from me?
- What are the benefits of signing a fixed-term contract?
Clarify what you're committing to:
- What are the financial obligations I'm committing to when I sign this
- What are the additional charges that could potentially arise from
signing this contract?
- What happens to my gas supply if your business fails?
- Does signing this contract commit me to receive other utility
services, such as electricity, telecom or cable?
Terasen Gas has no role in overseeing the actions of the gas marketers. The BCUC is responsible for licensing gas marketers and ensuring they adhere to a code of conduct ( http://www.bcuc.com/NaturalGasMarketers.aspx ). For more information about the code of conduct, and for a list of gas marketers licensed to do business in B.C. ( http://www.terasengas.com/Homes/CustomerChoiceApply/BuyingFromAGasMarketer/WhoAreTheMarketers/default.htm ), visit terasengas.com or bcuc.com
After signing an agreement with a gas marketer:
Residential customers receive a confirmation letter from Terasen Gas that provides a summary of the agreement entered into with the gas marketer. The letter also provides a deadline date by which time consumers must call the gas marketer if they want to cancel the agreement. This is the 10-day cancellation period mandated by the BCUC.
Most gas marketers have the discretion to allow customers to return to the Terasen Gas variable rate on the anniversary date of the contract. Gas marketer contract penalties and stipulations that arise from the early termination of contracts vary. Terasen Gas does not charge any fees if a customer chooses to return to the variable rate.
Customers who wish to return to the Terasen Gas variable rate should check their contract for details and should contact their marketer at least 90 days before the anniversary date of their contract if they want to terminate it.
If customers have a problem with their gas marketer agreement, they should first contact the marketer to resolve the matter. If the issue is not resolved, customers can initiate logging a dispute about their gas marketer agreement by contacting Terasen Gas. To contact Terasen Gas customer service, call 1-888-224-2710 or email email@example.com
SOURCE TERASEN GAS
For further information: For further information: Media contact: Joyce Wagenaar, Director, Corporate and Marketing Communications, Terasen Gas, Phone: (604) 785-8946, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow us on Twitter (http://twitter.com/TerasenGas)