Updated: 6:19 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009 | Posted: 2:52 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2009

Clark Howard: Think About Locking In Natural Gas Rates

ATLANTA —

The latest natural gas rates for Georgia are out and they have dropped yet again. Prices are at a 7-year low and that’s good news for consumers.

Channel 2 Action News Consumer Advisor Clark Howard tells you how to find the cheapest rates and when to break a contract if you’re already in one.

Eileen Kile said she is confused about her natural gas bill.

“It just sounds like it’s too complicated, too time consuming and I’m afraid I might make a bad decision on what I would choose,” said Kile.

For years, Kile has stuck with the same company instead of shopping around for the best rate. But, according to Clark, shopping around is easy thanks to the Georgia Public Service Commission. Each month, the commission posts the latest natural gas prices.

The state does an apples to apples comparison so you can quickly see the cheapest deal any month. Gas prices are low, low, low right now, Clark said.

“They’re probably half of what they were last year,” said Bill Edge with the PSC.

Clark says, before the weather gets cold you should take the time to look at your bill. Do you want to stay with variable or lock in? Variable is a gamble, but locking in can be a risk too.

“If the prices go down even more once they’ve locked in, they’re either stuck with that contract or they have to be willing to pay that termination fee,” said Edge.

The termination fee ranges from $50 to $100 -- but if your locked in rate is high, it would be worth it anyway.

“The rates have dropped so much that for most people, even with a $100 cancellation fee, you’ll make a big payback by switching to somebody else,” said Clark. “If you only have a $50 cancellation fee, it’s a no brainer to switch your provider if you locked in in the old days when prices were much higher than now.”

Clark went on to say, “Don’t just stick with whoever you’re with because you’ve been with them. This is a case where it really pays you to switch companies so you can get a steal of a deal.”

Channel 2’s consumer team found one way to ease the pain if you have to pay to break your contract. It’s called WhiteFence.com. On that website, certain natural gas providers will offer you gift cards to switch.

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