Propane Price Transparency

The winter of 2013/2014 was very expensive for many propane heating customers.  Adding to the frustration of significant propane price spikes during that winter, many propane customers were unaware of their propane price per gallon until they received an invoice from their propane supplier requesting payment for a recent delivery.  Why?  Because most propane suppliers chose not to openly post propane prices for customer comparison before each delivery. This makes it very challenging, if not impossible, for propane consumers to access and compare propane pricing among local propane suppliers before each delivery. Most propane suppliers simply lacked propane price transparency.

As a result of customer complaints, many elected officials have launched investigations into the reasons for the recent propane price spikes, including the possibility of propane price gouging practices by some propane suppliers.  While many propane suppliers have responded that recent propane price spikes were caused by propane inventory access problems and spiking wholesale propane prices, several state officials are looking into the possibility of some propane suppliers may have engaged in customer propane price gouging practices.

One solid step toward reducing or eliminating propane supplier future propane price gouging would be to make it mandatory that propane suppliers openly post current propane prices for leased tank propane heating customers on the supplier website on a 24/7 continual basis.  The reason that leased propane tank customers are specifically identified in this article is because they typically must purchase all of their propane fuel from the propane company that owns their leased propane tank.  Conversely, customers that purchase their propane tank have the option to shop around, compare propane pricing, then order from the local supplier offering the lowest current propane price per gallon.  Unfortunately, not all customers have the financial resources to purchase a propane tank.  As a result, customers without the ability to purchase a propane tank may be more likely to become a victim of propane supplier price gouging practices.

Propane price transparency for leased tank customers reduces the possibility that some less than ethical propane suppliers may be playing propane price gouging games.  Can propane consumers influence potential future measures or laws that pertain to the clear, open and transparent communication of each propane suppliers current propane price per gallon clearly visible on each propane suppliers website on a continual basis?  It is very possible.  Propane consumers that share the concerns outlines here  should participate in a letter writing compaign to local and national elected officials.  An effective letter writing campaign should include the participation of all propane consuming friends, co-workers,  family members and other propane home heating consumers that are home heating propane customers with supplier leased tanks.   A high level of interest related to any important subject designed to protect consumers from price gouging is likely to result in attention, support and action from most elected official.

Since 2016 is an election year, the timing may be perfect to bring the issue of propane supplier price transparency to the attention of officials that may be seeking your vote.  Let the  candidates running for election or re-election know that it would help propane consumers if it was mandatory that propane suppliers had to consistently post current propane price per gallon information on their company website 24/7 for customers that use a supplier owned (customer leased) propane tank for propane for home heating.  If a supplier claims that different purchase volumes and other circumstances dictate the current propane price per gallon for customers, those suppliers could openly post propane volume tier ranges and the propane price per gallon that corresponds to each volume tier on each respective suppliers website.

Where does a propane consumer find contact information for elected officials for letter writing purposes?  Many elected officials have contact information posted at the following location: Elected Officials.  If an individual is currently running for office, and is seeking your vote to win an election impacting your area, Google the candidate name and find the contact information on the candidates website. As noted above, send the candidate a letter expressing your concerns around possible propane price gouging and your interest in having propane suppliers openly post current propane prices on a continual basis for leased propane tank customer review and comparison. For assistance writing a letter, access Letter Writing Tips.

Another interesting component of this discussion that propane consumers should monitor:  Various propane suppliers have different excuses for not openly posting current propane prices on their supplier websites.

Some suppliers claim that wholesale propane prices change to often, therefore, they can’t possibly publicly publish current propane pricing. Why base propane prices on changing wholesale propane price changes when a supplier presumably purchased and paid for current inventory? Shouldn’t a propane supplier be clearly aware of their cost of inventory and have the ability to simply add a profit margin and sell it like other businesses do with other products everyday across America?

Some suppliers claim that customer propane pricing is only the business of a propane supplier and it’s customers. Should current propane pricing be a big secret?  If a propane supplier offers competitive propane pricing and excellent service, the supplier will prosper and grow.  If a propane supplier can’t offer competitive propane pricing and excellent service, they close their doors and go out of business.  Very simple concept.

Some suppliers claim that they do not openly post propane prices for ‘competitive reasons’ (perhaps some propane suppliers are internally aware that their propane pricing is not competitive when compared to other local suppliers?  Perhaps they feel that publicly disclosing their current prices on a continual basis would result in more informed customers accessing their website and quickly see that the suppliers pricing is not competitive and promptly change to another local supplier with truly competitive propane pricing?).

Some suppliers claim that their propane pricing varies by customer usage – so they feel that they can’t openly publish it for public viewing. Would it not be very quick and easy to publish the suppliers annual consumption volume tiers and the current propane price/gal that applies to these volume tiers on a website?   Many retail stores openly advertise volume discounts everyday: Buy one product at this price or buy three of the same products and get a lower unit price).

Important Note: It is also interesting to observe that some propane suppliers manage to openly publish current propane pricing on their supplier websites for 24/7 customer viewing.  Some propane suppliers even publish a comprehensive list of historical propane prices per gallon for customer viewing.  This is true propane price transparency.  If some suppliers can openly publish current propane prices in a transparent fashion – why is it a huge challenge (or perhaps impossible) for other suppliers to openly publish current propane pricing in a similar fashion?

Upon reading your letters, the elected officials may agree that the entire propane pricing transparency issue is rather odd and may need to be corrected to protect propane heating consumers from overpaying for propane fuel.  The more open access to propane pricing, the easier it is for propane consumers to review a suppliers propane pricing and rest assured that his or her propane supplier is consistently charging competitive propane prices for all future deliveries.

It is your money.  Don’t become a victim of propane price gouging!

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