When plaintiff Emily Fishman received a call offering her a new and purportedly cheaper gas program, it must have sounded like a good deal. According to the complaint, the representative claimed that a rate hike of 18.8% had already begun with her current supplier, PG&E, and that PG&E had also been granted another of 33% over the next three years. The complaint claims that the rep offered a variable rate program with Tiger Natural Gas that was free and capped at 69 cents per therm. Fishman signed up to receive her gas from Tiger—a mistake she now regrets.
The class for this action is all California consumers who enrolled in Tiger’s natural gas price protection program after receiving advertising that the program is free or can save consumers money versus their current gas provider’s rates due to a rate cap, during the appropriate class period. (The class periods are differ according to the different charges of wrongdoing.)
Perhaps the fact that the representative started out by claiming that she was calling from the “Community Gas Center” rather than Tiger Natural Gas, and that she first presented her offer as simply as a capped-rate plan rather than a change of supplier, should have told Fishman that the company was not entirely straightforward. The transcript of the call is included as an exhibit in the case and it’s hard for an objective reader not to conclude that the intention was deceptive.
Fishman’s bill with Tiger, the complaint claims, turned out to be more expensive than her bill with PG&E—in some months as much as three times higher. The rate cap never provided an advantage, the complaint says, and the rate hike that had been granted to PG&E was only 27% in any case, not the 33% the CSR claimed.
After nine months, the complaint says, Fishman had paid more for gas than she would have paid with PG&E, plus a “daily charge” that Tiger had never mentioned. She terminated her service with Tiger, but the complaint says that by then she had paid more than double what she would have paid with PG&E.
Tiger’s presentations were deceptive in several other ways, the complaint says, including (1) in not properly representing the PG&E rate hike, (2) in not revealing that the agreement it was making with Fishman would not be governed by the laws of California, where the gas was being purchased and delivered, but by the laws of Oklahoma, and (3) by claiming on its website that zero complaints were made about it to the Better Business Bureau, when twenty had been made.
These actions, the complaint claims, include breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation, and fraud, and violate other consumer protection laws against unfair business practices and false advertising.
And oh, yes—that transcript: It came from a recording of the call that the complaint points out was made without Fishman’s permission, a violation of California’s privacy laws.