Wyoming utility commission to review Vista Energy gas offers

2013-04-29T08:00:00Z 2013-05-03T20:57:29Z Wyoming utility commission to review Vista Energy gas offersBy KELLY BYER Star-Tribune staff writer Casper Star-Tribune Online

The Wyoming Public Service Commission received 10 complaints related to Vista Energy during the Choice Gas selection period this year, each alleging that a salesperson misrepresented the customer’s options.

On Tuesday the commission will consider investigating the complaints to determine whether any action is required. Six of the complaints came from Casper customers, according to commission documents. Laramie also had two customer complaints and Evansville and Lander each had one.

“The customers are complaining that these sales people are misrepresenting either the choices or the situation with the program this year,” said Chris Petrie, chief counsel for the Public Service Commission.

Most customers reported a door-to-door Vista Energy representative informed them they could no longer continue with the SourceGas pass-on rate, which is monitored by the Public Service Commission. The pass-on price is based on the utility’s estimated cost of purchasing gas for resale and is passed on to the customer “dollar-for-dollar.”

Petrie said complaints were sent to the utility company for a response, as is the normal procedure.

“Generally, that resolves most complaints,” he said.

If there is a series of complaints, Petrie said the commission can investigate and take action to protect the interest of Choice Gas Program customers.

Provider representatives “would not be allowed to misrepresent any aspect of the program to customers,” he said. “All information provided to the customers should be truthful.”

Paul Atha, director of operations for Vista Energy Marketing, said he could not discuss specifics of each complaint but said each had been resolved.

“Every complaint we’ve had…the customer has left a satisfied customer,” he said.

In addition to requiring representatives to wear Vista Energy uniforms, Atha said in an email statement the company has always required a customer respond to a series of questions for audio confirmation. After some complaints were made, the company added an additional question: “Customer, do you understand that Vista Energy intends to enroll this account with Vista Energy?”

Representatives also used an electronic tablet to enroll customers, a method not used in previous years.

“These measures were largely successful; however, we still had a few individuals who did not fully understand who we were or why we were there visiting with them,” Atha wrote.

Vista Energy Marketing joined the program suppliers last spring, and Atha said Wyoming pricing ranges between 40 to 50 cents per therm. Each address has a custom price.

SourceGas pass-on rate pricing has ranged from 27 to 41 cents per therm in the past year, and Petrie said current estimates are at 41 cents. A therm measures the amount of gas used.

With the Choice Gas Program, customers can periodically select from six natural gas suppliers. SourceGas Energy Services is one of the choices, and the corporation is also the local distribution utility. If customers do not make a selection, they automatically continue with their current supplier.

The program selection period ended Thursday, but Petrie said customers can contact the commission with questions or requests for further information.

Reach city reporter Kelly Byer at 307-266-0639 or kelly.byer@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @KellyByer.

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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