Disputing Propane Bill

A propane customer may occasionally receive a propane supplier propane billing statement that contains propane billing information that appears incorrect.  The information that a propane customer wishes to challenge may include the propane price per gallon, a propane tank rental fee, a propane supplier fee, propane service labor costs and/or any number of other issues.

The following include some suggestions that a customer may wish to consider when disputing a propane bill from a propane supplier.

Perhaps the most valuable advice for a propane customer is to remain calm, avoid raising your voice and using profanities when communicating with employees at the propane suppliers office.  It is important to remember that virtually all customer service agents on the other end of the telephone are interested in quickly solving customer service problem quickly and maintaining good relationships with all customers.  Turning a telephone conversation into a shouting match with the local supplier employees and/or managers does nothing to advance the issue toward a successful resolution.

If the supplier is a local supplier with a single location, the best option is to initiate telephone contact with the main office.  If the supplier is a national or regional propane company, initiate telephone contact with the local office.  In general, the employees in the local office have quicker access to customer information in the local computer system to reference your account and billing statement activity.

It is important to maintain written notes that include the nature of the problem, the name of the customer service agent with whom you discussed the issue, the date and time of the telephone contact with notes describing the content of the communication from you and the communication from the person at the suppliers office.  If a telephone call was made and a letter was sent, record the date and time of the telephone conversation and the date that a letter addressing with the problem was mailed to the propane supplier.

In the unfortunate situation where a problem is not resolved at the local level, if the dispute is escalated to other consumer advocate organizations for resolution, the customer raising the issue for resolution will always be asked about attempts to resolve the issue locally as a first step.  Clear notes with contacts, content of conversations, copies of letters, dates and times will be the best supporting documentation.  This information is very important when disputing a propane bill.

Clearly outline the nature of the problem.  Describe the part or parts of the propane billing statement that you are challenging.  Explain your reason for challenging the statement.  For example, an employee of the propane company verbally committed to a different propane price per gallon for one fill, a written document conflicts with the propane tank rental fee that appears in the statement – whatever clearly explains the reason for your billing dispute.

In some cases, the employee that addresses your telephone call may be able to solve the problem during the first telephone call.  However, some other cases may take longer and include more than one telephone conversations.  An employee in the supplier office may need  a minimum of one or two days and perhaps more to perform an internal investigation related to the dispute.  The employee in the office may need to make contact with field employees that service your account for discussion and/or review your file showing the company commitment as outlined in your propane service agreement and/or approach a manager/company owner to obtain approval for a billing statement adjustment or other dispute resolution.

Keep in mind that not all situations that involve customer disputes are the fault of the propane supplier.  Perhaps the dispute involves a simple misunderstanding.  Perhaps the dispute involves a misinterpretation of the propane billing statement line items – an oversight or mistake on the customers part.  Therefore, it is only fair that your propane supplier be given the opportunity to get back in touch with your with an explanation only – without the need for a propane billing statement adjustment.

It is very possible that the employee that you communicate with at the suppliers office has had internal training related to customer dispute resolution.  If this is the case, it is likely that your dispute will be handled relatively quickly.

Before concluding the initial telephone dispute conversation, ask the propane company employee for an estimate of the time when you can expect a return telephone call with an explanation, clarification and/or dispute resolution.

If the propane supplier does not make the follow-up telephone contact or letter as represented by the propane supplier employee as per an earlier verbal representation, it makes sense to initiate contact with the propane supplier office again.  Even if the propane supplier employee does not have an explanation or resolution at that point in time,  it is reasonable for a customer with a billing dispute to expect a telephone call as represented.  This is true even in the case where the follow-up telephone conversation is simply a message that more time is needed to investigate and resolve the situation.

If the propane supplier employee that made a commitment to make a return telephone call back to address the issue further or provide a resolution by a certain date fails to do so, it makes sense to contact the propane supplier office and ask for the company owner or a local manager in the case of a regional or national company.

If it becomes clear that a customer dispute is clearly not being investigated and/or resolved by a propane supplier, it makes sense to review the website or make telephone contact with your state Consumer Affairs Department.  Your state Consumer Affairs Department will likely offer some advice around the appropriate steps to pursue a customer dispute issue.  You may be given direction around approaching a local County Consumer Affairs Department and/or the local Better Business Bureau and, depending on the nature of the complaint, perhaps the State Attorney General Office.

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