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Looking to save money through an alternative gas supplier? Be sure to understand contract terms, consumer protections
September 16, 2021
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Sept. 16, 2021
Media Contact: Matt Helms 517-284-8300
Customer Assistance: 800-292-9555
Natural gas customers in Michigan may be considering contracting with an alternative gas supplier (AGS) as the home heating season nears. The Michigan Public Service Commission wants people to know that shopping around could potentially save you money, but customers should fully understand contract terms and consumer protections.
The MPSC urges residents and businesses considering an alternative gas supplier or looking for more information to evaluate their current rates to start first with the MPSC's CompareMIGas website. The resources offered there include price comparisons and background about consumer rights and protections under Michigan's Gas Customer Choice Program.
The site was launched in 2015, and since then hundreds of thousands of people have utilized the resource to look up current rates offered by AGSs actively marketing or enrolling customers in Michigan, as well as review the basic terms and conditions of offers. The site also features the current MPSC-regulated gas rates charged by the four natural gas utilities that offer natural gas choice in their service territories: DTE Gas Co., Consumers Energy Co., SEMCO Energy Gas Co. and Michigan Gas Utilities Corp.
More than 75% of Michigan households use natural gas for heating.
Business or residential customers considering purchasing natural gas through an AGS should be sure to shop around, understand the terms and conditions before signing a contract, and always be mindful of who is supplying your natural gas and the rate you are paying. The MPSC encourages customers to regularly monitor their energy bills.
Important questions to ask include whether the alternative gas supplier is licensed by the MPSC, what rate will be charged, whether the rate will be fixed or change from month to month, how long the contract will be, what happens after the initial contract term, whether there's an early termination fee, and how to cancel the contract if need be.
Under Michigan law, AGSs are permitted to market door to door and by phone and mail. As a requirement of their licensing, suppliers agree to abide by customer protections, among them:
- Sales agents must prominently display identification on the front of their outer clothing that identifies on whose behalf they are working while door-to-door marketing.
- Door-to-door marketing and telephone marketing must be performed only between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m.
- A supplier must enroll only the account holder or legally authorized person into a residential or commercial binding contract. A legally authorized person has legal documentation or legal authority, which includes, but is not limited to, an individual with power of attorney or a corporate agent authorized to enter into contracts on a corporation's behalf. A spouse is not automatically considered legally authorized.
- Residential and small commercial customers have a 30-day unconditional right to cancel the contract without termination fees following the date the customer signs the contract.
- Large commercial customers have a 14-day unconditional right to cancel the contract without termination fees following the date the customer signs the contract. The customer may waive this right of cancellation by affirmatively agreeing to do so on the contact.
AGS sales agents should not engage in deceptive marketing that includes misrepresenting themselves as working for a major natural gas utility, using aggressive or threatening tactics, or switching a customer's gas service to another supplier without a customer's approval.
The Commission monitors customer complaints for violations. Under Public Act 141 of 2000, the MPSC is directed to "issue orders to ensure that customers in this state are not switched to another supplier or billed for any services without the customer's consent."
Customers who believe they've been illegally switched or who believe they've been subjected to deceptive marketing tactics may file a complaint with the MPSC by calling 1-800-292-9555 or mailing MPSC Customer Assistance, PO Box 30221, Lansing, MI 48909.
For more information, visit the MPSC's Gas Customer Choice Program website. Our consumer tip sheet on natural gas customer choice includes a checklist for those considering a switch to an alternative gas supplier.
For information about the MPSC, visit www.Michigan.gov/MPSC, sign up for its monthly newsletter or other listservs, or follow the Commission on Twitter or LinkedIn.