Propane gas purchase tips from Ct Consumer Protection Commissioner

August 14, 2009
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Tips courtesy of Ct Consumer Protection Commissioner Jerry Farrell Jr.
 
Make sure the dealer you buy from is registered with the Department of Consumer Protection, as required by law. See License Verification at www.ct.gov/dcp or call 860-713-6160. Some propane dealers offer guaranteed price plans. Retail contracts for propane gas that offer a guaranteed price, including fixed price contracts, must be in writing. All terms and conditions must be disclosed in plain language and must be printed in at least twelve-point boldface type.

Ask for a signed, dated copy of any contract that you sign, and hold on to all your delivery receipts for at least a year, in case there is a dispute.

Propane dealers may also offer pre- buy contracts. If you sign a pre-buy contract, use a credit card that has purchase protection and only buy from a reputable dealer.  Pre-buy contracts can be no longer than 18 months and shall indicate:

• The amount of funds you paid to the dealer under the contract.
• The maximum number of gallons of propane committed by the dealer for delivery to you under the contract.
• That performance of the prepaid propane gas contract is secured.


Within thirty days after your contract ends, any undelivered propane gas owed to you under the contract shall be reimbursed to you, unless you and the dealer agree otherwise. This agreement should be in writing for your protection.

Special Note: 
It is relatively common in propane for non-pre-buy contracts to be of a longer duration than 18 months, it is important to read your contract before you sign as to the contract duration.  You also need to be aware of early exit
penalties, fees and service charges that may be imposed.  

Shop Around

The price of propane can vary widely among competitors in a local market. You should take advantage of this competition by shopping around for the best price and quality of service. However the price of propane also depends on the amount of fuel used.

A low usage individual can pay2 to 4 times the amount of a high volume user. Keep this in mind if all you use propane for is a pool or spa and your neighbor who heats his house with propane has a lower price.  Ask friends and neighbors for names of reputable and reliable fuel delivery companies.

Before deciding on a propane dealer, please call the Department of Consumer Protection at 1-800-842-2649 to find out if complaints have been filed against that particular company.

Rights and Responsibilities of the Tank Owner

Propane suppliers typically supply the tank along with the fuel delivery service.  It is therefore very important to know who owns the tank. 

This is particularly important when buying a home. In Connecticut (as well as the rest of the country) as only the tank owner is allowed to fill, empty, disconnect, and transport both the tank and the regulator.

This can make switching from one propane provider to another a bit more involved than with other fuels, and incredibly difficult when the tank in buried (there may be added fees related to moving a buried tank as well).  Many people consider buying their own propane tanks but because of fire and safety regulations this can also be very complex.

If you do decide to purchase your tank, you should ask of the installer when the tank was last certified and what ongoing maintenance is needed. Ask if there are any warranties and if you are purchasing a tank already installed whether or not the warrantee is assignable.

VERY IMPORTANT! A “leak test” is required any time there is an interruption in the propane supply. Whenever a tank is connected or an empty tank is filled, it must be retested for leaks.

If the tank on your property is owned by a propane company and you want to switch to another company that will provide its own tanks, you need to coordinate with both companies and allow enough time for the switch to occur.

When switching over, have the new company do the following:

•Provide at least four business days written notice to the current propane provider to disconnect and remove its tank and regulator before the new company does its installation.  Written notice must include the name of the person, business or propane supplier requesting the disconnection; your name and address; and the scheduled date and time of disconnection.

•
Your new company should coordinate delivery and connection of your new tanks with the disconnection of the old tanks so as not to cause an interruption in your service.

• After providing written notice to your old provider, your new company may disconnect the original tanks in a way that renders them free of leaks, with valves turned off and all openings plugged, and move the tanks to a safe location on your
property away from living areas.

• Only the owner of the tank may move the tanks off your property. The disconnected tank or regulator is required to be moved from your premises within 15 business days after being disconnected.

• In extremely cold weather, where a need for indoor heat requires that the switch take place immediately, or if a tank leak or fi re causes potential harm or danger, any propane gas supplier may disconnect or evacuate the cylinder or tank at the direction of a public emergency response agency such as the fire department.

Final Note

Read your contract and do your homework.  It is incredible difficult to mediate a dispute if the terms and conditions are clear and conspicuous and the consumer has signed the contract.  Ask questions and demand answers before you sign any contract.

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5 Responses to Propane gas purchase tips from Ct Consumer Protection Commissioner

  1. Barbara on March 20, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    George – You should keep reporting on the May propane report after its issued. I used propane for a number of years which includes a large investment of equipment. This past year has been the most sorryful one I’ve had dealing with a propane distributor. In February the dealer disconnected my gas line shortly after it had been approved by the East Lyme building inspector. They want all of my bill paid immediately but never warned of my gas being cut off which what they did.
    As a person over 70 living on Social Security I was especially happy I still had my electric heat ! No warning but “Pulled thePlug (gas line)” on a 7 degree day ! I still have gas in the tank remaining. Can’t use and if they try to remove tank I will call the police. It is their tank I agree but I believe that their actions are Elder Abuse to the worst kind.

  2. StepfordCT on September 4, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    Avoid Suburban Propane at all costs. Their prices escalate quickly after signing, contracts are circumvented and dealings with office staff are frustrating. The main issue comes when you leave their service for another. The first thing they do, when notified of the change, is FILL YOUR TANK. This is usually at the highest possible price they can get away with. We initial had free tank rental. They decided they no longer needed to honor that contract. The State of Connecticut Attorney General office was of absolutely no use in dealing with this NY based supplier. They had more important things to do, I guess.

    JDR

  3. DDK on March 30, 2016 at 12:04 pm

    If I ran my business like Hocon Gas of Guilford does, I would be out of business! I just ended my 5 year contract with them with their constant nickel and dime charges on every delivery. If that wasn’t bad enough, it took them 3 months to pickup their tank and when they did, they sent me a bill for $125.00, plus $4.99 Fuel surcharge. I inquired about this with my new company and they said that under the Evergreen clause, that they are not allowed to do this. Well, they are telling me that it was a service to pickup and not a charge to leave the company. What a bunch of crap. I’m not going to let this end here! Steer Clear of this place!

  4. Richard Cable on April 19, 2016 at 10:00 am

    I am also a Hocon gas customer and have been for years. They are the biggest scam artist’rip offs in the state. When I purchased my propane fireplace insert from them, I wanted to buy my tank outright. The sales person talked me into renting a tank from them, saying that it was the best option. He said the tanks rust and Hocon would replace the tank when that happened. What they did not tell me was that because I would be renting the tank from HOCON, they would be the only company that could fill the tank. This means I pay their prices no matter what. Dont buy from these people. Look elsewhere.

  5. Baxter Abel on January 3, 2017 at 1:51 pm

    I had no idea that the market price of propane gas varied so much! I also had no idea that there are different rights and responsibilities for tank owners when they have propane. I’ve heard that propane gas and natural gas have different costs, I’ll have to look more into it!





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