Propane Price Disclosure

Many propane suppliers choose not to publicly post their current propane prices.  As a result, many propane consumers with automatic route delivery that are not participating in a fixed propane price or propane price cap plan may be unaware of their propane price per gallon at the time of each delivery. Furthermore, with a leased propane tank, these customers typically must buy all of their propane from the supplier that owns the leased tank.  Under these circumstances, a propane customer may be locked into one propane supplier to provide his/her propane deliveries at a propane price the supplier picks that the customer may not be aware of until he/she reads their supplier invoice after each delivery.  Furthermore, following a delivery, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain historical propane prices charged by competitors for comparison to the date a consumer received a propane delivery – making challenging past delivery prices very difficult.

Without knowledge of their propane price before each delivery and lacking the freedom to pursue propane price offers and deliveries from other competitive propane suppliers to service the leased tank, these customers may or may not be paying competitive propane prices for each propane delivery.

Although some propane suppliers encourage their customers to “call their office for current propane prices”, this can be a useless exercise as many propane suppliers inform their customers that propane prices change frequently. Following the customer price inquiry, the supplier may change the propane price per gallon to any level between the time the consumer is given a telephone price-per-gallon quote and the time an actual automatic propane delivery occurs, which may be hours later, tomorrow or days later.

Many propane consumers are not comfortable being unaware of their propane price per gallon before each delivery. Two options to help protect propane consumers with leased tanks include the following:  (1) Asking propane suppliers to provide 24/7 current propane price postings on their company website giving customers complete access to their suppliers propane prices anytime (a concept similar to gasoline stations publicly posting gasoline prices for motorists to compare prices among competing gasoline stations), or (2) Asking propane suppliers to provide advance propane price per gallon notification to leased tank customers in the form of an e-mail, text message, voice-mail or fax 24 to 48 hours before each future delivery, giving consumers their absolute accurate price per gallon for the scheduled delivery with the ability to compare the propane price before each delivery. Then, if necessary, a propane consumer can contact their supplier with any questions regarding their propane price before the scheduled delivery.

Although purchasing a propane tank typically gives propane consumers the ability to solicit propane price quotes from multiple propane suppliers to obtain the lowest propane price, not all consumers have the financial ability to buy a propane tank. Therefore, the two options above help protect parties that choose to lease a propane tank due to limited financial resources.

A related question to consider: Do you think a retail propane supplier would lock themselves into one wholesale propane supplier by leasing the wholesale suppliers propane tank – then allow the wholesale supplier to make propane deliveries without communicating the propane price before each delivery – then give the wholesale supplier the freedom to pick a price and put it in the invoice?

Deregulated products are great for consumers – if consumers can view and compare product prices before buying. If you find yourself in the vulnerable propane price situation described above – your first step should be making contact with your propane supplier to request clear communication of your propane price per gallon 24 to 48 hours before each scheduled delivery giving you a window to compare your price with other local suppliers.

If your supplier does not accommodate your pre-delivery propane price disclosure request, you may wish to share your concerns with your state consumer protection agency, and/or a consumer advocacy group and/or an elected official to request advice on resolving the matter.  Due to varying office staffing levels due to budget constraints, it is important to review the website of each agency that you wish to contact for
information regarding their preferred method of being contacted about your concerns (letter, e-mail, etc.).

To find consumer advocacy groups, use your preferred search engine (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) and search for “consumer advocacy groups”.

Many state consumer protection agency addresses can be found by accessing Consumer Protection Agencies.  Mailing addresses for many elected officials can be found at Elected Officials. For assistance writing a letter, access Letter Writing Tips.

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