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Consumer Rights and Protection

The Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has made available a synopsis of its rules to help Georgia residents protect themselves from abuses which may arise in the investor-owned natural gas industry.

Consumers are expected to meet their obligations to their utility service providers in a timely manner. However, should the occasion arise where they are unable to do so, rules have been enacted to make sure utility service providers act in a reasonable manner when engaging their customers regarding collection activities (late fees, disconnections, etc.).

The following rules apply to customers of Atmos Energy and customers of Natural Gas Marketers operating in Atlanta Gas Light Company's delivery area.

Disconnection
515-3-3-.01
Bill for service is not paid within at least 45 days after the date of the bill.

Notice Requirement
Local Distribution Co.
(Atmos Energy)
515-3-3-.02(A)
Written notice of proposed disconnect provided at least five days prior to date of disconnection. Utility makes good-faith effort to make personal contact at least two days prior to the proposed disconnect date.

Notice Requirement
Electing Distribution Co.
(Atlanta Gas Light Co.) and Natural Gas Marketers
515-3-3-.02(B)
(a) Written notice of proposed disconnect provided at least fifteen (15) days prior to date of disconnection. Utility makes good-faith effort to make personal contact at least two (2) days prior to the proposed disconnect date. (a6) Contact information for agencies where consumers may seek assistance with paying bill, including the contact information for the Department of Human Resources. (a7) Statement that consumer is entitled to at least one reasonable payment in writing prior to disconnection. (a8) A statement that qualified low income residential consumers may transfer to the Regulated Provider without termination of service.

Disconnection During Illness

515-3-3-.03
Service shall not be disconnected for nonpayment when the company receives written notice from a healthcare provider certifying the illness would be aggravated by the discontinuance of service. The disconnection shall be held the shorter of either the duration of the illness or one month from the date of the notice. Customer may renew postponement period an additional time.

Seasonal Restriction

515-3-3-.04(1)
Between November 15 and March 15, customers may sign an agreement to pay past due balance in equal installments beginning with first billing period after March 15; concluding by October 15.

515-3-2-.04(3)
If the forecasted low local temperature for a 48 hour period beginning at 8:00 a.m. on the date of proposed disconnect is below 32ºF, service shall not be disconnected on that day.

The following rules apply only to Natural Gas Marketers Operating in Atlanta Gas Light Company's Delivery Area

Billing

Service Quality Standards
515-7-6-.02(a)(1)
A bill is past due if it remains unpaid more than 20 days from the date the bill was mailed.

515-7-6-.02(a)(4)d6
The bill shall readily identify the exact amount of the base charge that is being charged by the electing distribution company for that particular retail customer.

515-7-6-.02(a)(5)
The competitive retail natural gas service charges billed to a customer shall not exceed the marketer's published price in effect at the beginning of the customer's meter reading cycle.

515-7-6-.02(a)(10)
The late fee assessed by a marketer shall not exceed $10 or 1.5% of the past due balance, whichever is greater. A marketer shall not apply a late fee on bills less than $30.

Consumer Rights

515-7-6-.04(a)
A marketer shall allow customers equal time to pay charges that were not timely billed. Marketer shall not access late fee, interest or undertake collection efforts during this period of time.

515-7-6-.04(b)
Customer's who receive a "corrected" bill are given at least 90 days from the date a corrected bill is rendered to pay. Marketer shall not access late fee, interest or undertake collection efforts during this period of time.

515-7-6-.04(e)
A marketer shall have 30 days to correct a billing error it discovers or has brought to its attention. During the period the billing error is being disputed, the marketer shall not access late fee, interest or undertake collection efforts during the time the billing error is being disputed.

Terms of Service Minimum Standards

515-7-9-.02(1)
In any advertisement, offer or agreement, a marketer shall specify a time limit by which any sales promotion item will be honored.

515-7-9-.02(2)
A marketer shall not charge a consumer a service charge relating to a change from a previous marketer if such consumer has not changed marketers within the previous 12 months.

515-7-9-.02(4)(a)
When the expiration date of a fixed term agreement is approaching or if the marketer proposes changes to its terms of service, the marketer shall provide advance written notification at least two billing cycles, or 60 days, prior to the date of expiration. Additionally, 25 days prior to expiration of the fixed term agreement, written notification, separately mailed, shall be provided that includes the price-per-therm that's being offered.

515-7-9-.02(4)(b)
In cases where a consumer does not make a preference known, the marketer shall not place the consumer on a new fixed term agreement unless provided for in the current fixed term agreement. If the consumer is "rolled over" into a new fixed term agreement, the marketer shall be prohibited from charging an exit fee or early termination fee for a period of 90 day from the beginning of the new fixed term agreement. Additionally, the duration of the new fixed term agreement shall not exceed the duration of the current fixed term agreement.

515-7-9-.02(6)
A marketer shall not charge cancellation fees to low income residential consumers seeking service for the first time from the Regulated Provider. A cancellation fee shall not be charged to any consumer who terminates service to relocate to another residence and does not change marketer.

Right to Rescission

515-7-9-.05
Consumers shall have three days to cancel the agreement from the date the consumer receives either enrollment materials, notice of a change of terms and conditions, or notice of any new or additional charges.

Regulated Provider Eligibility

To be served as a Group 1 customer, one must be the income guidelines established under the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) - 150 percent of the Federal poverty level.

To be served as a Group 2 customer, one must be unable to obtain or maintain natural gas service.

Deposit

For a Group 1 customer, the deposit is $100.00; for a Group 2 customer, the deposit is $150.00

Senior Citizen Discount

Seniors who are at least 65 years of age with a total household income of $12,000 or less are eligible for a discount of up to $14.00 off the monthly Atlanta Gas Light Company's base charge.

Senior Citizen Discount (Atmos Energy)

Seniors who are at least 65 years of age with a total household income of $12,000 or less are eligible to to receive a waiver of the $7.00 monthly customer charge.

Source: Georgia Public Service Commission: Consumer Rights Electric, Natural Gas and Telephone (A Handbook).

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