Phillips: Agencies take consumer complaints

Phillips: Agencies take consumer complaints

March 13th, 2010 by Ellen Phillips in Business Ellen Phillips

Picking up from last week's column concerning agencies that regulate utilities/service organizations, grab some scissors to cut out and save the following state agencies, though I hope you never need these contacts. (Don't forget to write the head honcho at the company you feel is treating you wrongly.)

Tennessee Regulators

* Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) -- utilities, except for water utility districts, TVA, municipally owned utilities and cell phones

1. Sara Kyle, chairwoman, 460 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, TN 37243 (sara.kyle@tn.gov)

2. Lisa Cooper, chief; Tevin Thompson, deputy chief, consumer services division

3. 800-342-8359 (in state toll-free); 615-741-2904 Ext. 192 (I've always had more success in dialing companies' regular long distance than toll-free, especially when afforded an extension number.)

David Foster, deputy chief of the utilities division, was kind enough to explain to me what the TRA regulates, aside from what's noted previously. The TRA oversees corporately owned utilities; it polices Tennessee-American Water Co. but not those water companies controlled by publically elected city/county boards.

The TRA regulates Chattanooga Gas -- owned by Atlanta Gas -- because it's privately held. Further, Mr. Foster provided an eye-opener: It audits gas companies to ensure the latter does not charge the consumer more than the amount of the purchase price. (Usually, 60-70 percent of our monthly gas bill is what the gas company paid in the first place).

* Consumer Advocacy and Protection Division

1. Cynthia E. Kinser, deputy attorney general, Office of the Attorney General, P.O. Box 20207, Nashville, TN 37202

2. Online complaint form

3. Robert E. Cooper Jr., Tennessee attorney general, same address. (In suspected fraudulent activities/billing)

* Office of Consumer Affairs

Mary Clement, Director, Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, 500 James Robertson Parkway, Nashville, TN 37243 (www.tn.gov/consumer)

(Also let a company know what's happening; otherwise, the big bosses remain in the dark and can't make necessary changes. For example, write CEO Brian L. Roberts, 1500 Market St., Fl 33e, Philadelphia, PA 19102.)

Tax Tip: If you owed tax when filing your 2008 return (last year), remember to include that amount in your state tax deduction on your 2009 return. (For states with income tax, include taxes withheld from your 2009 paychecks or paid via quarterly estimated payments.) A backwards "gift," to be sure, but we'll take it.

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business. E-mail her at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.