AKRON, Ohio - Ohio's Gas Choice program allows you to choose who supplies your natural gas, but some consumers say they never made that choice and now they're facing unexpected fees.
State records I've obtained in the past show many homeowners don't understand the choice program. It allows you to choose your natural gas supplier. Other times, cities will choose a supplier for citizens, but you have the option to opt out if you are not interested.
If you choose a supplier, you may have a contract with that supplier that dictates how long you need to keep the service without facing a penalty.
Ken Novak had no idea why a collection agency sent him a letter demanding $100 for Ohio Natural Gas. Novak said he doesn't remember using the company to supply his gas.
Novak thought it was just one of those letters we warn you about trying to get his information or to collect money he didn't owe. He thought it was a red flag that the collection agency used several different mailing addresses, but Five On Your Side found this letter and the debt are legitimate.
"Somehow or another we switched or terminated a contract early with a supplier and went with another supplier and now we have an early termination fee that's $100. I don't remember the switch," Novak said.
Ohio Natural Gas records its conversations, but the company said it will talk with any customer who has questions about their account or collection notice.
"Very confusing. I have to believe the average person has no way to understand it. It's a catch 22 to people. They get you where they can," Novak said.
You can always find out who supplies your gas by looking on your bill under the itemized charges. Before you switch gas suppliers, make sure you do the math and figure out what's best for your family situation. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has an Apples to Apples comparison chart that makes it easy to compare plans. Get any contract you agree to verbally in writing and look for fees to cancel or end the contract early.
Any time you get any collection notice you don't believe you owe, demand proof in writing. Make sure you read and understand you rights as outlined in the letter because you only have a certain amount of time to request the debt in writing.
Make sure you keep tabs on your credit report at least once a year. You can check it for free through Annual Credit Report . It's the only truly FREE site. Look for mistakes as they are common, and dispute any issues.