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Attorney General William Schneider Urges Maine Consumers to Do Their Homework When Purchasing Home Heating Oil
May 16, 2011
AUGUSTA – In light of recent cases of local home heating oil dealers going out of business without fulfilling the prepaid accounts of customers, Attorney General William Schneider today urged Maine residents to do their homework before purchasing oil.
In 2005 the Maine legislature enacted a statute that prohibits home heating oil dealers from offering prepaid guaranteed price plans without first obtaining one of three forms of financial protection to ensure the dealer’s ability to deliver the product for the agreed-upon price.
“Before purchasing home heating oil, compare oil suppliers, costs and contracts,” said Schneider. “Ask the dealer which of the three financial security methods it uses to meet statutory requirements. Keep a copy of the contract and any other related paperwork, including any advertisements the company placed at the time of purchase.”
The law requires the dealers to obtain one of the following: 1.) Contracts with suppliers that guarantee the dealer will be able to purchase at a fixed price an amount equal to 75% of the maximum gallons the dealer is committed to delivering to its prepaid customers; 2.) A surety bond equal to at least 50% of the total amount paid by its prepaid customers; or 3.) A letter of credit equal to 100% of the total amount paid by its prepaid customers.
The terms of each customer’s prepaid contract must specifically include the total amount of money paid by the customer under the contract; the maximum number of gallons committed by the dealer for delivery; and confirmation that the dealer has secured one of the three consumer protections listed above.
At least two Maine oil dealers, Thibeault of Brunswick and Price-Rite/Veilleux of Biddeford have gone out of business recently. Due to the lack of assets available to satisfy a judgment, there is little recourse for customers. This has left hundreds of customers without the heating oil they purchased or the money they gave the oil companies in advance.
For more home heating information, go to http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/attach.php?id=27939&an=1
To report unfair and deceptive conduct by a home heating company, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (207) 626-8849.
CONTACT: Brenda Kielty (207) 626-8577