Yvonne Zanos: Gas supplier offering new prices

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Could it be a sign that natural gas prices are starting to ease?

One of the gas suppliers is opening its doors to new Dominion Peoples gas customers. To understand the implications of this, let's review:

Dominion Peoples is a regulated utility company. If you live in its territory, you are and will remain a Dominion Peoples customer even if you decide to switch to a new gas supplier. Your bill will continue to come from Dominion Peoples even if you choose a new supplier.

Here's the confusing part. The supplier who has made an offer to you is named Dominion Peoples Plus, not to be confused with your regular gas company, Dominion Peoples. This similarity in names is a pet peeve of mine.

Here's the Dominion Peoples Plus offer for new and existing customers: If you call 1-800-400-5648, you can receive a new price. You will be given a choice. You can lock in a price of $11.59 per mcf (thousand cubic feet of gas) through Nov. 30, 2006, or $12.45 per mcf through Jan. 31, 2007.

What are you paying now? If you are a Dominion Peoples customer who has not switched to Dominion Peoples Plus before, your "price to compare" is $12.59 per mcf.

If you are a Dominion Peoples customer who has switched to Dominion Peoples Plus in the past, you will have to check your bill to find out what your current rate is. Depending on when you locked in a price with Dominion Peoples Plus, you could be paying $12.99 per mcf or $12.79 per mcf. You could also be paying a lower price if your contract has not yet come up for renewal.

This is an offer worth checking out. Remember, Dominion Peoples Plus does not charge a cancellation fee, which means that you can cancel and go back to your regulated utility company, in this case Dominion Peoples, at any time.

If you are an Equitable Gas Co. customer and already use Dominion Peoples Plus as your supplier, you can call Dominion Peoples Plus at 1-800-533-1259 and lock in a new price of $13.82 through September 2006. There are no offers available to Equitable Gas customers who aren't with Dominion Peoples Plus.

If you are a Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania customer, there are no new prices from Dominion Peoples Plus for new or existing customers.

Q: I am an Equitable Gas customer who used to have Dominion Peoples Plus as my supplier. I switched back to Equitable a couple of weeks ago. After reading your articles, I decided I made a mistake. I called Dominion Peoples Plus to ask them if I could remain a Dominion Peoples Plus customer. I was told I could not switch back. It was too late. Once you leave, you can't get back in until they start taking new customers again. Is there anything else I can do?


A: Call Dominion Peoples Plus again, William. You were given wrong information.

Under normal circumstances, the information you were given would be correct. Typically, if you decide to quit Dominion Peoples Plus and return to your regulated gas utility company -- Columbia, Dominion Peoples or Equitable -- it's a done deal. You cannot change your mind a few weeks or even a few days later. Dominion Peoples Plus has not been taking on new Equitable Gas customers for quite a while.

These are not normal times.

Kim Kujbus of Dominion Peoples Plus said, "We are letting people who dropped Dominion Peoples Plus after the first of the year and returned to Equitable as their gas supplier return to our program."

She explains that because there has been confusion about the "prices to compare" posted on Equitable's Web site, the company is relaxing its rules. The number to call is 1-800-533-1259. You will be given the new price of $13.82 per mcf.

KDKA-TV consumer editor Yvonne Zanos can be reached at 412-575-2234, zanos@kdka.com or, in writing, at KDKA-TV, One Gateway Center, Pittsburgh 15222. Please provide your name, address and daytime telephone number with your inquiry.


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