CUB files complaint against Santanna Energy
By Jim Chilsen
By Jim Chilsen
Communications Specialist Citizens Utility Board
The Citizens Utility Board (CUB) has filed a complaint against Santanna Energy Services, asking state regulators to pull the natural gas supplier from the Nicor Gas Customer Select program unless it stops illegal marketing and billing practices, and to order refunds or credits for customers who werent told they would be charged for gas they didnt use, causing their gas bills to skyrocket.
Santanna Energy Services, based in Austin, Texas, does not adequately disclose the prices, terms and conditions of its service in plain language before customers sign up for that service, as is required under the Public
Utilities Act, CUB said in the complaint filed with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) on Monday.
The company participates in the Customer Select program, which allows
Nicor Gas customers to choose an alternative company to supply them with natural gas. CUB has been flooded with complaints from frustrated and confused consumers who were promised savings of 13 percent or more from the company, only to see their bills double. Thats because the company did not tell the customers beforehand that it would bill them for gas they have yet
Consumers are lured into taking Santannas offer and then find themselves
the victim of a bait and switch, CUB Executive Director Martin Cohen said. Santanna is effectively robbing Customer Select consumers of the one thing the program was intended to provide-informed choice. Santanna claims that it buys more gas in the summer, at cheaper rates, and then stores the excess gas for use by the customer in the winter, as is customary in the natural gas industry. However, CUB argues that if Santanna wants to do that, it needs to make that clear to consumers before they sign up for the companys offer.
CUB is asking the ICC to pull Santanna out of the Customer Select program unless the company immediately stops the illegal marketing and billing practices, to order fines of up to $10,000 for each violation of the Public
Utilities Act and to order refunds or credits to customers for the gas they did not use. CUB also is asking the ICC to expedite its complaint-hearing process so consumers can get immediate relief. Santanna has not yet been certified by the ICC, because it has a 180-day grace period to comply with certain certification requirements, but it still
must follow provisions of the Public Utilities Act.
If the ICC does not pull Santanna from the program, CUB asks that the agency withhold approval of the companys certification until it stops its illegal marketing and billing practices.
CUB has fought in the state legislature and before the ICC to improve the
Customer Select program, started in 1998, arguing that the program is confusing and open to misleading and fraudulent marketing.
CUB is a nonprofit statewide utility watchdog organization created by the state legislature to represent the interests of residential and small-business utility customers. For more information on CUB and its efforts to protect consumers, visit www.CitizensUtilityBoard.org or call CUBs Consumer Hotline at 1-800-669-5556.