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Utility companies: It's not our fault!

Gas bills are soaring this winter, and utility companies want to make sure the public knows that they aren't to blame:
Utility companies around the country are so concerned about consumer outrage over huge natural gas bills this winter that they have launched public relations campaigns to convince customers that the companies are not to blame.

"BGE has no control over these price increases," says a Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. radio commercial. "Nor do we profit from them."

In newspaper ads and on radio and TV, utilities are hammering the message that they are simply passing along costs from natural gas producers and are not pocketing a big bounty. The message also is cropping up in newsletters included with bills and fliers handed to customers. Utilities are even specially training customer service operators so they know how to explain higher prices to irate customers.

With customers' natural gas bills forecast by the government to increase an average of 38 percent this winter, these are among the ways natural gas utilities are trying to avoid being tarred as price gougers.

...The gas utilities are required to pass along these supply costs to customers without taking a markup. The utilities make profits based on delivery of gas: The more they deliver, the more profit they make. The rates they charge are set by regulators.
So instead of using that money to reduce their rates for delivery and lower heating bills a bit, they're spending it on ad campaigns telling you that while your bill may be high, hey - it's not their fault.

I realize the money spent might not be much, relatively speaking, but still.

Why do utility companies even care about their image? How many people have a choice of who to get natural gas service from anyway?

Speaking of skyrocketing utility bills, it's worth remembering that they disproportionately affect the poor, of course.

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