Study: Georgians are complaining about their natural gas providers less

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A comprehensive review of Georgia PSC data by Georgia Gas Savings reveals that over the past five years, customer complaints about Georgia’s natural gas providers have fallen by 60 percent.

While overall, customer complaints about Georgia natural gas suppliers are at their lowest in the entire 20 years of deregulation, the most significant developments have taken place in the last eight years. Though the first decade saw angry customers making tens of thousands of complaints per month, most cases were often related to the state’s early efforts to create, enact, and enforce regulations (especially against slamming) and also featured a revolving door of providers entering and exiting the Georgia marketplace.

The past eight years have seen Georgia’s natural gas market mature and allow customers to reap the benefits of competing suppliers. This period is not only characterized by a more stable cast of providers but also a trend showing a steady year to year decline in complaints. What drove the decline, however, begged for research.

Using data for the eight-year period from January 2010 to December 2017 obtained from the Georgia Public Service Commission’s monthly Gas Marketer Scorecard, GeorgiaGasSavings.com undertook this study to uncover the changing trend in customer complaints. The Gas Marketer Scorecard data covered billing, service, and deceptive marketing complaints filed by consumers against Georgia natural gas providers. The data and analysis can be accessed at https://www.georgiagassavings.com/reports/2018-psc-complaint-study.

The review of the PSC data showed that complaint levels were rising in 2011, totaling 1,229 by the end of the year with an average 102 complaints per month. In April 2012, the trend broke and by the end of 2017, complaints dropped to just 483 for the year, giving an average of 35 per month.

The study also compared historical weather and natural gas pricing information with PSC complaint data. As one would expect, extreme winter weather did play a role in more complaints. However, during the record warm winter of 2011/2012, complaints reached 145 per month, the highest rate for the entire period being studied. Winter time complaints in all years following never go above 89 per month.

Further analysis found that while Georgia natural gas customers were often dissatisfied with their natural gas providers early in the eight-year period, the combination of cheaper natural gas rates coupled with actions by providers to engage and communicate with customers appears to have helped improve consumer satisfaction. Customers discovered that when their natural gas providers furnished them with useful information and answered questions via the media channels they preferred to use, they were able to resolve problems to their satisfaction far more quickly.

Complaints to the Georgia PSC are now at their lowest level in over eight years.

The findings of this study suggest that Georgia natural gas customers no longer need to dread dealing with their natural gas provider. Instead, customers can expect faster assistance resolving billing problems and improved over-all service, all through the most convenient means such as email, phone calls, or social media.