Gerald Augustine of Middletown was preparing to make more use of his garage, so three years ago he had natural gas service from Yankee Gas brought to his property.
He changed his mind and never used the gas line. But getting the service was much easier than stopping it.
He said he paid the monthly $13.50 customer service charge through May 2007, when he called the largest natural gas company in Connecticut and told them to cancel his service.
However, he says that call and numerous other calls he made to Yankee Gas, a division of Northeast Utilities, had no effect.
“To this day I keep receiving monthly bills and shutoff notices,” he wrote me last month. “Numerous times I called YG to let them know of this problem. Someone there has not done their job, actually numerous times that I called. I know the billing and shutoff notices are automatic but I wish someone would look into this dilemma. The bills since May of 2007 have added up to $300+.”
I forwarded Augustine’s email to the public relations department at Yankee Gas and to the state attorney general’s office. Within 48 hours, Augustine’s service was shut off, his bill was torn up and he was told he would get a refund of $59.
Yankee Gas, which has 200,000 customers in 71 Connecticut towns, declined to discuss the case with me.
But when they talked with Augustine, he said, they blamed him for the problem.
I asked him if he was given an explanation and/or apology.
“No, not really, actually very blunt,” he said. “Almost as if it was my fault and stated that the first time I called them was Aug.of 2009. That definitely wasn`t the case. At the beginning I was calling them each time I received a “service charge” bill. .. I must have a collection here of 12 shut-off notices. It just went on and on with no response, as if I was being totally ignored.”
Evidently, some Yankee Gas executives received customer service training from the same people who trained their sister company, Connecticut Light & Power, which for years refused to test meters for customers, a violation of state utility regulations.
It took investigations from the state Attorney General’s office, the legislature and state utility regulators to improve CL&P’s substandard customer service practices.
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