BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has requested $860,000 refund from Unitil Gas over allegations the company's customers paid higher than normal gas supply costs.

The request was made after an investigation, conducted Nov. 2007-April 2009. Coakley said it revealed the company had internally raised supply costs while other suppliers had maintained low prices.

According to the brief, the state has requested the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to order a refund $863,368.00 back to Unitil customers in the form of a bill credit to partially reimburse them for the excessive gas supply costs.

"While Unitil's customers were no doubt keeping a close eye on their heating bills during this period, our office alleges that the company was engaging in an unauthorized gas purchasing program that saddled ratepayers will excessive costs," Coakley said.

Coakley said Unitil's program, responsible for raising fuel supply costs, was not authorized by DPU officials.

Consumer costs in gas come from the expenditures local gas companies' payout in advance for the winter heating months. DPU must first authorize any price changes that may occur during the period following the purchase, according to Coakley.

Unitil provides gas service to approximately 15,100 customers in the communities of Fitchburg, Townsend, Lunenburg, Ashby, Westminster and Gardner.

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