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Summit Utilities class action suit moves to Arkansas Public Service Commission



Little Rock, Arkansas – Consumers in central Arkansas are probably paying Summit Utilities for their gas, so they are not alone in thinking that their winter gas bills appeared ridiculous.

Several clients filed a class action lawsuit due to their dissatisfaction with expensive bills. A plaintiff requested the dismissal of that lawsuit from federal court in the middle of March, and court records indicate that Judge Brian Miller withdrew from the case.

“I have been personally impacted by the subject matter herein to the point that I could be called as a witness,” Miller explained.

Customers of Summit and their lawyer, Scott Poynter, submitted a motion on Tuesday asking to participate in the current discussions at the Arkansas Public Service Commission.

“We’re back in front in a venue where we’re trying to battle and work for the benefit of our clients again,” Poynter said.

Over 400,000 Arkansans use Summit gas, including the attorney. He has been in charge of the class action activities since the beginning of the year, and on Tuesday he asked to participate in the APSC probe that Attorney General Tim Griffin had ordered.

“All sides to it are doing something that’s never been done before, before the utility commission,” Poynter said. “There’s never been a class of consumers so upset about utility bills that they’ve had to file a class action complaint before the commission.”

Poynter stated that the APSC must still choose whether to consider the request or send it back to court. If it satisfies their legal standards, Jeff Hilton, interim executive director for the Arkansas Public Service Commission, predicted that they probably will.

The two investigations that the APSC has currently launched center on Summit’s billing procedures and its methods for getting gas at a reasonable price. Poynter claimed that both of the investigation’s foci have his clients’ full support.

“The biggest problem that exists is that the bills are atrocious. Okay? Across the board. They’re enormous,” he said. “They’re either two times or three times or four times, even 10 times, what their normal average bills had been in the past.”

Poynter charged Summit with terminating levelized billing or charging some customers who are not enrolled in autopay when it bought CenterPoint Energy in late 2022.

“There’s a real problem here because the sheer numbers show that there’s a problem,” he claimed.

Although Summit has previously acknowledged some billing mistakes, it insists that all of those problems have been remedied. What, if any, repercussions Summit might experience are unknown. In addition to financial compensation, the class action lawsuit demands that Summit subscribers’ disconnections and late fees be stopped.

After Griffin requested an investigation, the attorney general’s office and Summit had already submitted their findings for arguments.

There are already deadlines established for the attorney general to submit direct testimony in favor of his action no later than March 31 and outlining each of Summit’s claimed violations of Section 5 of the General Service Regulations. Summit must provide its own direct testimony in response by April 20 at the latest, per the APSC’s directive.

The arguments from Poynter on behalf of customers that would address the previous direct testimony would have a deadline of May 10 if given the option to intervene.

There may be more hearings, testimony, or delays in the process.

On March 15, a Summit representative stated that the business would maintain its policy of not disconnecting clients or assessing late penalties, which went into effect on November 1, 2022.

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