Columbia Gas customers paid more after choice


COLUMBUS — A newspaper reports that consumers in Columbia Gas of Ohio territory have paid more, not less, since being offered a choice of natural-gas carriers under utility deregulation.

The Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday that newly disclosed data shows those who selected their own gas provider paid a combined $885 million more since 1997 by shopping than they would have by sticking with regulated prices. It was 1997 when Ohio's “gas choice” program was launched.

The data was released last week in a regulatory case before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that could lead to regulated prices being abolished.

Consumer advocates said the figures showed consumers haven't had enough information to make smart decisions.

Deregulation supporters said the figures don't reflect how competition drove down even regulated prices.