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Columbia Gas: OH's Biggest Natural Gas Utility
Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio's capital, Columbia Gas of Ohio is one of nine energy distribution subsidiaries of NiSource Inc. Through its predecessors, it traces its roots back to the early 1900s in Ohio, and with 1.4 million Columbia Gas OH customers – residential, commercial and industrial – the firm is the largest natural gas utility in the Buckeye State.
With the deregulation of retail natural gas sales in Ohio, residents were offered the free Customer CHOICE program, which encourages customers to shop with the increasing number of retail suppliers to get the best price and contract terms to fit their needs. Even if customers switch to a different retail supplier, customers retain a relationship with the company, which as a utility is still responsible for maintaining all the pipes and other infrastructure necessary to get natural gas to homes safely.
Helping customers of Columbia Gas in OH negotiate with suppliers
While avoiding making a recommendation about what natural gas supplier customers should choose, the company does recommend steps all customers should take before choosing one. The company suggests:
- Know what offers are available. Look for newspaper, broadcast, Internet and direct-mail advertising. Some companies also send sales reps door to door.
- Take time to evaluate each offer. Remember that the product is the same – natural gas – so the main difference is price. But suppliers are wrapping the price in so many differently shaped and wrapped packages, customers can get confused. For instance, a supplier might dangle 30 percent savings for the first three months but require customers to then move to a variable-rate contract, where the price can fluctuate according to the natural gas market.
- Customers should consider a fixed-rate contract, which avoids price fluctuations but generally locks customers into a longer term of service. With variable-rate contracts, be sure to know how often your rate can change and what triggers a change. Is it just the market price? Is there a cap on how much it can change at one time?
- Also analyze discount offers. Some suppliers offer discounts on just part of the bill – such as the cost of the gas or the base cost of delivering the gas – which means less savings. Other suppliers discount the entire bill, but the discounts are usually smaller.
- Check out each company you're considering. Is it large or small? Is it based in Ohio, another state or is it a national firm? What's the company's reputation with customers? You can check with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio or the Better Business Bureau. Do the companies reinvest their resources in local communities they serve?
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Columbia Gas in OH consumers have the right to shop for their energy needs just like they competitively shop and price other important purchases in their lives. Switching companies is easy, but customers should do their homework first.