Columbia, S.C., Aug. 24, 2004 - South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. has reached a settlement agreement with the South Carolina Attorney General's Office regarding the collection of municipal franchise fees from customers.
The settlement is the result of a complaint filed by the Attorney General in the fall of 2003 stating that some electric and gas customers whose service addresses are outside city limits were incorrectly charged franchise fees. SCE&G collects franchise fees for municipalities in exchange for the use of rights-of-way for the placement of utility equipment and facilities. SCE&G does not keep any portion of the franchise fee which is passed on to the municipality.
The settlement states that mistakenly charging franchise fees to customers who do not live within municipal limits can occur for a number of reasons, including: new construction; annexations; imprecise or inaccurate descriptions of annexed areas; and human error.
"We have changed our bills to allow our customers to easily identify when they're paying franchise fees to a specific city or town," SCE&G spokesman Robin Montgomery said. "As we move forward, we would ask that our customers carefully review their bills and contact us immediately if they believe they are being incorrectly charged a franchise fee."
In addition to changing customers' bills so that municipalities are clearly identified, SCE&G also distributed information to customers explaining franchise fees and inviting customers to call if they believed they were being charged in error. Since implementing these steps, approximately 4,100 accounts have been identified as having been erroneously classified within municipal limits. Based on detailed account reviews, SCE&G -- with more than 577,000 electric customers and 279,000 natural gas customers -- expects less than one percent of its customer base to have been mistakenly charged franchise fees.
As part of the settlement, SCE&G will appropriately refund all franchise fees to customers who were incorrectly billed during the past five years, dating back to April 1999. Any present or former SCE&G customer who believes that his or her account has been charged a municipal franchise fee in error and, who has not received credit or a refund, should contact the company at 1-866-840-3482.
SCE&G is the largest subsidiary of SCANA Corporation, an energy-based holding company principally engaged, through subsidiaries, in electric and natural gas utility operations, telecommunications and other energy-related businesses. Information about SCANA and its businesses is available on the Company's Web site at www.scana.com.