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State launches probe of propane suppliers

State launches probe of propane suppliers

Attorney general investigates delivery delays, possible price gouging
State launches probe of propane suppliers
Photographer: Shutterstock

ALBANY — Long delivery delays and possible price gouging by propane suppliers have prompted a state investigation.

The Attorney General’s Office announced the probe Tuesday, saying it was prompted by dozens of complaints received during severely cold weather that settled across New York over the last week of December and first week of January.

EDITORIAL: Fast-track emergency propane bill 

A relatively small number of New Yorkers — about 240,000 out of 7.2 million housing units — heat their homes with propane, but many found themselves unable to arrange fuel deliveries as their tanks emptied faster than normal, due to record-cold temperatures. Suppliers in some cases were unable to keep up.

“No New Yorker should have to sit in a freezing home or office this winter. But in recent days, my office has been flooded with calls from New Yorkers across the state who’ve experienced extreme delivery delays and possible price gouging by their local propane supplier,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a prepared statement announcing the investigation.

He said his staff was able to spur deliveries to some of the people who had called his office to complain, but he added that there were clearly “systemic failures” during the cold wave.

The Attorney General’s Office said too many propane customers across New York couldn’t get timely responses from their suppliers; some who had been calling all week finally got deliveries on a weekend but were hit with surcharges of $150 to $200. And propane suppliers refused to fill tanks owned by other companies, suggesting that the customers buy tanks from them, instead.

The Attorney General’s Office said it was publicizing the probe so more people would come forward with reports of problems and provide information to further the investigation. It asked them to call 518-776-2000 or file their complaints on the Attorney General's website. 

The office also suggested customers be aware that there are significant price differences between suppliers of delivered heating fuels, such as oil and propane. Schneiderman's office urged customers considering entering seasonal supply contracts to make sure they understand all the terms and conditions, including delivery charges and minimum purchase requirements.

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