Heating Season Has Begun – Consumer Protection Rules Are In Effect

October 23, 2014

(AUGUSTA) Maine Attorney General Janet Mills reminds fuel dealers and consumers to be aware of rules regulating the sale of heating fuel that take effect in Maine from October 15 to April 30. These rules specifically hold sellers of home heating oil, propane, natural gas, electricity and firewood to higher standards during this time, even when a customer owes the dealer money.

Fuel dealers are not allowed to assess additional charges to a consumer, except for what is outlined here (http://www.maine.gov/sos/cec/rules/26/239/239c100.doc). If a customer has money for a delivery, they cannot be denied a delivery between October 15 and April 30.

If the customer owes money, a dealer cannot refuse a delivery if: • The customer has a guaranteed payment for the delivery (cash, LIHEAP, etc.); • The dealer regularly serve that area; and • The customer requests at least 20 gallons.

A dealer may charge an emergency delivery fee if the customer is told in advance of the fee.

Delivery Surcharges are only allowed if: • The order is for less than 50% of the tank’s capacity or 100 gallons, whichever is less. • The delivery is requested on a day you do not normally deliver in that area. • The surcharge cannot be more than $20.00. • The customer must be informed of this charge in advance of delivery.

Unscheduled Deliveries • A dealer can impose a minimum delivery requirement. • A dealer who charges established customers a delivery surcharge, minimum delivery requirement, or different price must treat every customer the same.

Prepaid Contracts • A dealer must first obtain financial protection to ensure they can deliver the product at the guaranteed price, which includes contracts with suppliers with specific language, surety bonds equal to at least 50% paid by prepaid customers, or a letter of credit equal to 100% paid by those customers (10 M.R.S. 1110). • Since 2012 all dealers who offer prepaid contracts must register their intent with the Commissioner of Professional and Financial Regulation by June 30 to indicate the manner of compliance.

Coal Vendors • Coal vendors must provide a receipt with the dealer’s name/address, consumer name/address, date and quantity delivered, price and description of the type of coal sold.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Law Guide includes a chapter that discusses Consumer Home Heating Rights in greater detail. That chapter can be accessed here: (www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/attach.php?id=27939&an=1).

Failure to follow these laws and regulations may be an unfair trade practice in violation of 5 M.R.S.A. 207.

Consumers with questions about their rights regarding heating fuel sales or other consumer matters are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1(800) 436-2131 or consumer.mediation@maine.gov .

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