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Suburban Propane / Price Gauging and Unethical Business Practices

1 Haymarket, VA, United States Review updated:

Upon moving into our house in September 2009 and never having any experience in dealing with a propane company, I chose the company that the previous and original owners of the house had contracted. I unknowingly signed a 3-year agreement with them as the customer service employee went through the pages with me telling me what each said in a nutshell. It was my bad for not reading the fine print and trusting someone, but to be honest, I just thought I was signing up with a new utility. It costs $100, plus administrative fees to cancel, which is a small fee compared to their gas prices. I researched 6 propane companies yesterday and Suburban Propane is $1.00 higher per gallon than the most expensive one that quoted me. Also, I have a 500-gallon tank which they fill to 80%, probably about 425 gallons and the first go round it cost over $1200 to top off the tank, whereby previous owners still had some residual fuel in there. They advised that they own this tank. I am going to ask them to provide documentation. I would purchase it if they gave me a fair market price for a 10-year old tank, but they said they would sell it for $2, 000. It has depreciated greatly in 10 years. They are the most rude people to their customers I have ever seen. The guy yesterday told me he had other customers (we were on the phone) and he would have to let me go. They come up with their hose to top off your tank to get more money. I have yet to get a bill with the amount of units on it and the price they are charging. They said the driver put it on the door and it probably blew away. Even when they mailed me this bill, it had nothing, but $441.00 due upon receipt. What does that tell me? I got on the budget plan after asking them to average out the previous owner's highest year at $220 per month and got a bill this month for $441. Our main heat source is heat pumps and the propane only kicks in after the temperature gets below a certain degree when it is cold and the heat pump (electric) is no longer efficient. So the propane is a back up system. Everything in the house is electric, except the fireplace and the stove, both of which we do not use often. I was told that since our tank is underground, it would be over $700 and maybe more, because it would have to be back-hoed out, plus a pump out fee per gallon of gas that is in the tank, and other administrative costs. I am looking to seek legal advice and take some action because customers should not be treated this way. We live in a free enterprise system and should be able to choose (without severe penalty) what companies we want to handle our business. If anyone out there knows of an attorney or someone knowledgeable about this issue, please contact me. I am going to contact the Virginia State Attorney General's Office. Legislation needs to be enacted immediately to regulate this crooked industry of price gauging and unethical business tactics. This company needs to be stopped in their tracks. Maybe the White House can get involved like they did in the General Motors case.

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Comments

  • Ge
      18th of Mar, 2010
    +1 Votes

    Suburban Propane has done virtually the same thing to our family by arbitrarily increasing their rates from as little as $2.39 per gallon to a whopping $5.39 per gallon within a single delivery. They are an enormous corporation with little-to-no ethics with regard to their customers. I had the regional supervisor, Phil Palmeri, on the phone to complain and he promised that he would adjust my bill to reflect $2.00 per gallon and lock that price until July, 2010 - this was heard by a number of people via speakerphone, as I knew that, as a corporate flunkie, he would attempt to be slick with regard to this type of complaint.

    When I called to inquire about my bill, I was told that the price had been adjusted to reflect $4.39 per gallon and demanded to speak to Mr. Palmeri, again - he was out of the office. I called a few days later and left a message on his business voice mail, and no return call. I finally tracked him down and confronted him with my complaint and he said (verbatim AND on speakerphone, again), "I would NEVER agree to that amount! NOT EVER!" To which I replied that, perhaps, he had meant that he would allow a two-dollar discount. His immediate response was that I was implying that he was "...a liar..." and I responded by saying that I wasn't calling anyone a liar, but that several witnesses heard him say that he would only charge me $2.00 per gallon and lock that price until July 31, 2010. He finally compomised and promised that my bill would reflect "$2.39 per gallon with a litany of corporate double-speak about seasonal usage, supply and demand, and so forth. I responded by saying that his company was engaging in PRICE GOUGING and that, regardless of the adjustment, I would be reporting his company's practices to the Federal Trade Commission, which I have.

    I urge EVERYONE who has experienced price gouging and unethical practices with this (or, any other) corporation to take copious notes, talk on speaker phone with witnesses whenver possible, and to REPORT these issues to the FTC, immediately.

    Another issue with this company is alleged "malfunctioning valves." This is either a deliberate ploy, or plain stupidity when the delivery is made and the valve is left open for the gas to dissipate causing the customer to reorder another delivery. Please, please, please...all consumers MUST make themselves aware and take PROACTIVE steps to protect themselves, and their fellow consumers.

  • No
      27th of Nov, 2010
    +1 Votes

    My community is in Western Loudoun County of Northern Virginia. Our experience with Suburban is identical in most cases and worse in some, that Rebeca Mitchell mentions in her commentary. The bottom-line as I see it, is that Suburban Propane is in gross violation of anti-trust stipulation, defined in the Sherman Act. The Attorney General for the Common of Wealth of Virginia should be actively involved in bringing this discredit to justice and blatant disregard for the law and citizens of Virginia, to justice in court of law. Only the vast amount of money and associated leverage, allows the lobbyist for this firm to continue to rape the citizens of our great state. THIS HAS TO STOP!!!

  • Tr
      4th of Dec, 2010
    +1 Votes

    I have another suburban propane disgruntled customer story. Langhorne Pa. Suburban was told not to fill the tank twice. Contract was good to dec 9th. They came while I was on my honeymoon and filled the tank on Nov. 5th. And capped it stating the house was unoccupied and that its standard procedure. They are trying to charge us 5.00 per gallon for the UN-AUTHORIZED FILL and forcing us to renew our contract. Meanwhile it's dec 6th and they still wont un cap the tank without renewing a contract that they were in violation of in the first place. SCREW THEM. BOYCOTT SUBURBAN.

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