State investigating 'misleading' letters offering gas-line insurance
(KUTV) — Check your mailbox. You’re likely getting a letter that appears to be from the gas company suggesting you buy insurance on the gas lines inside your home.
Roger Strand got a letter at his Park City home. Before retiring, he ran an HVAC company. In his decades of doing the job, he says he’s never seen a gas line within a home simply fail.
Bill Penton got the letter at his Magna home. He sells insurance for a living and says that, in his 34 years of experience, he’s never seen a single gas line claim over an in-home gas line that simply failed.
But the letters, which appear to be coming from the gas company, Dominion Energy, insinuate that it’s a real problem.
“The natural gas line is subject to corrosion and normal wear and tear,“ the letter reads. If that line fails, it could cost you “hundreds of dollars in unforeseen expenses."
The letter signed by Dominion Energy's general manager, James L. Neal, are printed on Dominion Energy letterhead and come in Dominion Energy envelopes.
They are not from Dominion Energy.
Rather, they are from a company called HomeServe USA, an insurance company.
The letters are being sent with Dominion Energy’s blessing. Dominion Energy has partnered with HomeServe USA, which calls itself “the leading provider of home emergency repair service plan programs.”
The letters have provoked the ire of Utah state regulators. Chris Parker, the director of the Utah Division of Public Utilities, says they are currently investigating whether or not the letters, that he calls “misleading,” break the law.
“This has the potential to confuse customers," he told Get Gephardt Tuesday. “We wouldn't want utility customers to sign up for something they think is mandatory, or pay for something they think is mandatory, when it's really not."
Besides the appearance of being from the gas company, one of the things concerning to Parker’s division is whether or not private customer information was inappropriately shared by Dominion Energy with HomeServe, he says.
The division would like anyone who receives the letter and is troubled by it to file a complaint with his office by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling (800) 874-0904.
Darren Shepherd with Dominion Energy says the insurance being offered, which covers gas lines inside the home, is a good option for some of their customers.
Shepherd acknowledged that the letters are “branded, Dominion Energy.” When asked if Dominion Energy believes doing so is misleading, Shepherd responded, “I don't believe that it is because we are partnered with them."
Shepherd said that he and others at Dominion Energy say and approved of the mailers before they were sent out.
Of the state investigating, Shepherd said, "We feel like we are within the bounds of the law."
HomeServe also rejected claims that anything about the mailers is misleading or deceitful.
In a statement, HomeServe Senior Vice President of Public Relations Myles Meehan wrote, “We believe strongly in being 100% transparent to our customers and with our partners.”
“HomeServe is proud of the services we provide to the nearly 3.5 million homeowners in partnership with our over 500 municipal and utility partners around the U.S.,” he wrote. “Over the last 3 years we have performed 1.2 million repairs for our customers saving them hundreds of million in repair expenses.”
HomeServe has made headlines in Utah before. In 2014, Get Gephardt investigated after HomeServe partnered with Salt Lake City and together sent out letters advertising insurance for home sewer lines.
Customers who wish to be removed from future HomeServe mailings can contact HomeServe directly at (833) 808-6703.