If there's one problem the Michigan Public Service Commission is hearing a lot about it's heating bills.
Its call center right now is getting around 750 calls a month, half of those are from natural gas choice customers, complaining about their rates.
Rather than stick with one of Michigan's major utilities whose rates are regulated and controlled-- alternative choice customers sign up with a third party company.
It often means savings, but can sometimes transitions to a variable rate that is more expensive.
Like one Santanna Energy customer who contacted us. In December they were paying about the going rate-- $5.49 cents per natural gas unit. Then in February the rate climbed to $7.60 a unit. This month it skyrocketed to $16.32.
"The Public Service Commission does not regulate the rates of alternative gas suppliers, so we advice customers, before they sign anything read the contract, understand it," said Judy Palnau, of the Michigan Public Service Commission. "Customers of the regulated utilities are paying about an 11 year low for natural gas prices right now. However on the open market the price of natural gas has really recently reached a five year high so there's been a spike and it's all because of the cold weather we've had."
Palnau has worked for the commission for more than a decade. Right now she said the agency is getting the most natural gas phone calls it's had in seven years.
"Even if you dial down in your home, you are using a lot more gas even to keep it at 68 degrees," said Palnau, especially during the recent sub-zero temperatures we've had.
While there are thousands of happy alternative natural gas customers, Palnau warns customers to be aware.
"You are taking a risk when you sign a contract and you are then in a contractual relationship with that company," said Palnau.
We reached out to Santanna Energy Services to comment on the price increases, they did not return our phone calls.
If you feel your utility company has breached its contract, you can call the commission at 1-800-292-9555.