Munro's suit accuses CenterPoint of fraudulent billing

Kelly Holleran Mar. 16, 2010, 8:48am

A Beaumont business claims its natural gas supplier cheated it out of thousands of dollars by failing to inform it of a transportation service that could have drastically lowered its bills.

Munro's Uniform Services filed a complaint March 2 in Jefferson County District Court against CenterPoint Energy.

Munro's, a rental uniform company in Beaumont, claims it contracted with the area's only natural gas provider, CenterPoint, to provide gas for its company at 399 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.

After receiving natural gas bills of more than $14,000, Munro's president called CenterPoint in March 2009 to see if anything could be done to lower the bills, according to the complaint.

CenterPoint told Munro's that if the company qualified for transportation services, it could seek a third party supplier. However, after checking Munro's usage, CenterPoint confirmed that it did not meet the minimum usage requirement of 50 mcfs per day, the suit states.

Munro's claims it did not know that on Feb. 28, 2009, the Texas Railroad Commission granted CenterPoint the authority to lower the minimum usage rates for the transportation services, which it did. But Munro's alleges the gas company continued to mislead its customers about the minimum requirements, the complaint says.

"Munro's remained diligent in its inquiries about its natural gas supplier options," the suit states. "Only after repeated phone calls and a lunch meeting between Munro's and a CenterPoint representative on May 18, 2009, did CenterPoint inform Munro's that it would actually qualify for the transportation services program."

Once Munro's began participating in the program, it claims it saw its bills drop an average of $10,000 per month without reducing its natural gas usage.

"Munro's sustained thousands of dollars in damages because of the false and misleading information that CenterPoint repeatedly coveyed," the complaint says.

Munro's alleges breach of contract, violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act, negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, fraud by nondisclosure and unjust enrichment against CenterPoint.

It seeks actual and exemplary damages, plus attorneys' fees, pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and other relief to which it may be entitled.

Ernest W. Boyd and Katy L. Covington of Mehaffy Weber in Houston will be representing it.

The case has been assigned to Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th District Court.

Jefferson County District Court case number: B186-149.

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