Zoeller: $20K to customers for propane price gouging

One woman says her propane bill jumped more than $300 in one month. (WLFI Photo)
One woman says her propane bill jumped more than $300 in one month. (WLFI Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WLFI) – Consumers who were overcharged for propane this past winter by a Jasper County-based business will receive nearly $20,000 in restitution.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller reached a settlement Wednesday with Ashland Propane Demotte, LLC for overcharging its customers this past winter. As part of the settlement agreement, affected consumers will receive restitution.

In January, Gov. Mike Pence declared an energy emergency in the state based on the propane shortage caused in-part by extreme winter weather. Zoeller said during the worst of the winter his office’s priority was to make sure Hoosiers had access to heat.

“When propane prices skyrocketed, there was concern that the hundreds of thousands of Hoosier consumers who rely on propane to heat their homes could be taken advantage of during the crisis,” Zoeller told News 18 in a release. “Ashland’s customers who were overcharged will be made whole after the company’s failure to honor its contracts.”

In the fall of 2013, Ashland Propane entered into contracts with 93 customers which agreed to supply a stated amount of propane to each consumer through April of 2014 at a set price of approximately $1.49 per gallon. However, when propane prices spiked in January, Ashland informed those customers it would not be honoring the locked-in prices because of supply concerns and charged them up to $4.79 per gallon — which in most cases was three times more than the contracted price.

In addition to price increases, the consumers were stuck in a contract with Ashland and therefore were unable to seek an alternate propane supplier.

In Zoeller’s complaint, he argues Ashland had enough supply to fulfill its contracts when the company said it was in shortfall.

The judgement reached in a Jasper County court was Ashland would provide the affected customers with credit to their account, or a direct refund if the customer no longer wishes to do business with the company.

All Hoosiers who were overcharged by Ashland have been made whole, Zoeller said.

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