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FerrellGas / deceptive billing

MI, United States

If you choose to use Ferrellgas as your propane provider I can only suggest that you read every single word written on every piece of paper that they send you. They have been my provider for 10 years, and during that time I've always used their Auto Bill service, whereby they charge a set amount every month. When you have an account set up like that, they send you the exact same billing statement every month. In the AMOUNT DUE block, the words "Auto Pay" are displayed, and the first sentence in the fine print in the center of the bill reads "Auto Pay - Do Not Pay Amount Due". When you receive the exact same billing statement every month for years you get lazy and when the first sentence of the fine print says "Do Not Pay Amount Due", you believe it. DON'T.

Three times over the past 10years they screwed up my auto pay billing, and instead of contacting me to fix (their mistake), they just let it go for several months, then removed me from the auto pay program and sent me a bill for $1k+, due immediately. Oh, and the bulk rate I had initially agreed to in the spring was now double. In going back over my bills, all of which said "Do Not Pay Amount Due" as the first sentence of the fine print, several sentences down is a single sentence indicating that the account is past due. Should I have read through the fine print that looked exactly like the fine print of every other statement I got from them? Yeah, probably. Would it have made any difference when the first sentence says "Do Not Pay Amount Due"? Probably not...at least for the first 2 months or so.

The first time this happened I just paid them and didn't think much about it. I had other things to worry about, I gave them some money, they shut up, and all was right with my world. The second time this happened was right before Christmas, and coming up with the cash was somewhat problematic, but the prospect of not having heat for my family going into a MI winter was a motivating factor, and I managed to come up with the cash to shut them up. This balance was paid in 12/08. I went to their Howell office, some 20 miles away to make this payment, and stood right there to make sure that they had the account info correct for the following month. I asked "Now this is the last time I'm going to have to do this, right? The account information is correct, and the Auto Pay is in place, right?" I was assured that, as I stood there in front of them with all of the correct account information, that the billing would not be screwed up again. I received my January statement, read every word, and everything was good. They accessed the account and billed it correctly with my Auto Pay. Problem solved. Again. I received a fill in April (per their "Keep Full" program), and in May I noticed in the fine print that my account was past due AGAIN. I started pulling statements and bank records, and sure enough, the January billing was the last time they correctly billed my account. So again, I was removed from the Auto Pay and Keep Full programs, and oh yeah, the bulk price I agreed to no longer applied, and the fill I got in April about double what I agreed to. And oh yeah, I now owed them $1k+ again, due immediately.

When pressed about why they weren't doing their job and billing correctly, they said it was my job to make sure that they do their job correctly. I was also told that it was policy to stop the Keep Full program running after the bulk pricing was discontinued to ensure that I didn't go without heat...in April...less than 4 months after my last fill...though of course it would cost MORE THAN DOUBLE what I agreed to. All of this while receiving statements that looked just like every other statement I've received over the past 10 years with the phrases "AUTO PAY" and "Do Not Pay Amount Due" prominently displayed, and their screwed-up book keeping several lines down in the fine print.

After reporting them to the BBB, they agreed to reinstate the Auto Pay, which would of course be adjusted to reflect the payments that I had "neglected to make". Of course, they refused to even do this before the BBB complaint was filed. And they still refused to let me in on any bulk pricing agreements as I had missed that window when I had "neglected" to pay my bills...that said "Do Not Pay Amount Due" on them.

Far be it from me to accuse anyone of anything in public, but what happens every time they screw up the Auto Pay on a customer's bill is this; They get all of their money for the year within a few months, can remove you from any bulk pricing agreements and (in my case) more than double the per gallon price, and can get one last fill in at the new price without you really knowing what's going on.

Ferrellgas is not the only game in town, and will not get another cent from me.

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