Complaints spike as propane companies cope - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Complaints spike as propane companies cope

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MADISON (WKOW) -- State officials say more than thirty complaints against propane companies have been filed in recent days, with customers claiming pre-paid orders have gone unfilled, or citing problems with late deliveries and price.

Rick Meier of Fitchburg filed a complaint against Milton Propane with the state department of agriculture, trade and consumer protection. Meier tells 27 News despite pleading with company representatives in phone calls to refill the dangerously low propane supply for his home in Algoma, he was forced to go to the firm's Sturgeon Bay offices before Meier was able to arrange a propane delivery.

Consumer Protection division administrator Sandy Chalmers tells 27 News the majority of the recent complaints involved customer pre-paid orders going unfilled. DATCP officials say more than a half dozen complaints have been filed against one firm, Customer's Gas Service of Amberg. In a statement issued Sunday, company representatives said their supply of propane was to be replenished soon, and they are working to fill orders.

Department of Administration deputy secretary Chris Schoenherr says Marinette County officials are working with the most vulnerable of Customer's Gas Service contract-holders to ensure their propane supplies are sufficient to handle the continued, cold weather.

Milton Propane president John Arndt tells 27 News his customer's complaint is just a symptom of the pressures being handled by his firm and others in the industry, as cold weather across the country has reduced propane supplies, and inflated prices.

In a Jan. 23 letter to Milton Propane's thirteen thousand customers, Arndt said tight supplies and "catastrophic pricing of propane" forced the company to change its business model drastically. Arndt wrote credit purchases were suspended for residential customers, and limits on delivered propane put in place.

In Meier's case, Meier and Arndt say Milton Propane relied on a degree day monitoring system to estimate the amount of propane in Meier's home's tank. Arndt says the monitoring system is usually within a few percentage points of the tank's actual volume, but Meier says the system's estimate was considerably higher than the actual propane amount, and Meier worried home pipes would freeze and cold-related damage was possible.

Chalmers says consumer complaints over propane are being prioritized, and involved companies are being contacted in an effort to ensure propane deliveries.

Governor Walker has authorized additional money to provide assistance to low-income propane users, and has relaxed limits on propane shipment weights and truck driver hours to increase the availability of propane to the state.

If you wish to file a complaint over an unfulfilled propane contract or other issues, state officials ask you call 1-800-422-7128.

 

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