Culpeper, Virginia
2 comments

I have been forced to suffer as an Amerigas customer for over 10 years now because my home builder allowed Amerigas to install my underground tank. They retain ownership of the tank, and thus I'm forced to buy propane only from Amerigas. They will not sell me the tank under any circumstances, at any price (no surprise, since they currently have me locked into a total monopoly where I simply have to pay whatever they feel like charging unless I want to freeze to death). Many of my neighbors are in the same predicament, and many of them have also pleaded and begged for Amerigas to sell their tank back to them. None have succeeded. The last time I tried, the rep literally tried to hold back her laughter that I would even ask such a question.

For years, Amerigas prices have been higher (sometimes MUCH higher!) than competitors or the average prices for the area. I've seethed and cursed every time I have to write them a huge check at above-market prices. But the last delivery I received was the final straw.

On 11/07/13, they delivered 350 gallons of propane. I almost fell on the floor after receiving an invoice on 11/12 for over $1,600, showing that I was charged $4.729 PER GALLON plus "HazMat Fees" and "Fuel Recovery Fees" (read: more pure profit for Amerigas).

I just went to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) site (www.eia.gov), which provides impartial and detailed statistics on all kinds of energy including propane. For the week of 11/11/13, the average retail residential propane price for the Central Atlantic (aka PADD 1B) was $3.122/gal. MD was $3.327; DE was $3.069; NJ was $3.603; and PA was $3.033. (DC is included in PADD 1B, but reported no propane sales prices.)

I also looked at PADD 1C, the Lower Atlantic region, where the average price was $2.999. VA was $3.088; and NC was $2.967.

So no matter how you look at it, Amerigas is ripping me off beyond belief. Using the Mid-Atlantic average of $3.327 for the exact same dates, their charge of $4.729/gal is $1.402 higher than the average -- which means I'm being forced to pay 29.6% more than the average cost. (And of course, "average" means that by shopping around, I would find both higher and LOWER prices.) Isn't it interesting that my cost is almost precisely 30% higher vs. the average retail price?

This whole setup ought to be illegal. Propane companies should be forced by law to sell you the tank installed on YOUR property at a reasonable, depreciated price based on its age. Flatly refusing to sell the tank and then overcharging by 30% because they have you over a barrel just isn't right.

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Anonymous
#777038

Have another tank delivered to your property from another supplier. If they refuse to sell the tank let it sit empty

Anonymous
#769335

I liked the robber barons metaphor! Having been in a similar situation, I am sorry to report that it is even worse than you described it, but there are solutions.

Other than propane, electricity is the most expensive form of heating, at least in most areas of the country. Even if you have a thermodynamically impossible 100% efficient propane furnace, and electricity costs 12.2 cents per KWH, electricity is cheaper if propane exceeds $3.27 per gallon of propane. My propane furnace is listed as being 80% efficient, so for me, electricity is cheaper if the price of propane exceeds $2.62 per gallon. I suggest you get some electric space heaters to cut down on your propane usage, but be careful with the fire hazard issues.

Alternatively, you may want to consider an electric heat pump/resistive furnace, wood pellet furnace, wood stove, solar panels, geothermal, natural gas furnace, heating oil furnace, etc., because they are ALL cheaper than propane!!!

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