Wednesday, February 07, 2001

Suit filed over gas price deal

Rate doubled under choice program, man says

By Mike Boyer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Symmes Township man has filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of thousands of area customers of a former Cinergy Corp. unit, claiming it broke an agreement to provide natural gas to his home for less than half what he's now paying.

        In a related move, the Ohio Consumers' Counsel filed a complaint with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio on Tuesday against the same former Cinergy unit, Cinergy Resources Inc., and The Energy Cooperative (TEC) and Licking Rural Electrification Inc. of Newark, Ohio, for failing to supply gas and violating tariff rates.

        TEC, a unit of Licking Rural Electrification, acquired Cinergy Resources in January 2000. Cinergy Resources had more than 17,000 residential customers and represented most customers in Cinergy's gas choice program.

        Last month, Cinergy also filed a PUCO complaint against TEC and its parent, claiming they violated terms of their gas-supply agreement and improperly transferred several thousand customers from fixed to market-rate contracts in September.

        In the lawsuit, filed in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, Brad Vigran says he signed a two-year contract in April 1999 with Cinergy Resources Inc., then a nonregulated unit of Cinergy Corp., which agreed to supply his home with natural gas at a fixed price of 32 cents per hundred cubic feet plus sales tax.

        Last fall, the company began charging Mr. Vigran and other customers double the contracted price as wholesale natural gas prices soared.

        Mr. Vigran's lawsuit also names Cinergy Corp. and its Cincinnati Gas & Electric Co. subsidiary as defendants.

        A spokesman for Cinergy said the utility holding company had not seen the lawsuit, which seeks reimbursement for the higher gas costs and other expenses. He pointed out that Cinergy had sold Cinergy Resources to TEC.

        Gregory Berberich, a lawyer for Mr. Vigran, said TEC was not named in the lawsuit because TEC maintains the customer accounts are now the responsibility of Cinergy. A spokesman for TEC could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.


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