• Report: #642151

Complaint Review: Suburban Propane

  • Submitted: Sun, September 19, 2010
  • Updated: Mon, September 20, 2010

  • Reported By: Jane — Queenstown Maryland United States of America
Suburban Propane
PO Box 3809 Prince Frederick, Maryland United States of America

Suburban Propane Unethical Practices Prince Frederick, Maryland

*Author of original report: Rebuttal to "ex-employee/old propane guy"

*UPDATE EX-employee responds: Minimun Bill

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The following is a dispute letter I composed to Suburban Propane regarding their unethical business practices; I also filed a formal complaint with the Consumer Protection Agency and suggest that others do the same, as this company must be stopped from victimizing consumers!

 To Whom It May Concern:

Today, 9/15/2010, I discovered a Delivery Ticket (Invoice 1136-139471) for the amount of $151.29 attached to my door. The ticket indicated that I had received 2.1 gallons of LPG.  Clearly, propane costs have not currently reached more than $75 per gallon, so I immediately called the inquiry number on the ticket to request explanation, specifically the  Minimum Bill comment that was, prior to 9/15, completely unfamiliar to me during my years as a Suburban customer.   During my conversation with the Suburban representative, I was told it was irrelevant that I had only received 2.1 gallons of LPG and that I was still responsible for paying the $151.29 minimal fee.  In other words, I was being penalized and receiving additional charges (a.k.a. Minimal Bill) because I had not used what Suburban Propane indiscriminately and subjectively determined to be a minimum amount of propane!  I informed the representative that I would pay for the 2.1 gallons of LPG that were replaced in the tank; however, I would not pay for something I had not received or used, at which point I was threatened with having my propane tank turned-off, thereby making the gas inaccessible to me.  The gas in the tank (minus the 2.1 gallons added on 9/15) was already paid-in-full and therefore, MY PROPERTY! 

In addition, and without any notification of change, I received a tank rental fee of $60 (plus tax) last year.  Upon calling to inquire about this fee, I was informed that because I did not use enough gas (amount undisclosed, of course), I would be charged this fee, which I had never received in prior years.  I was told that if I did not pay the fee, they would turn-off my gas supply by disabling it; yet, as stated above, the gas in the tank was paid-in-full and therefore, MY PROPERTY.   I did pay the rental fee, however.

I do not know the amount to dispute (per the Summary of Your Billing Rights inclusion demand for this letter), as THERE IS NO COST PER GALLON IDENTIFIED ON THE INVOICE, so I am unable to determine the rightful charges for the 2.1 gallons I received and for which I am prepared to pay.  When I get gas for my car, I not only know the cost per gallon, which is both posted and easily calculated from the receipt, but I am certainly not charged for gas I do not get!  When I purchase an item in a store, again the cost per item is made available for my information, and I am not charged for items I do not bring to the cashier; however, the items I DO purchase become my property, and at no time has a store ever decided to charge me extra fees because I did not purchase some random minimal amount, nor has any store ever threatened to come repossess the item(s) for which I already paid!  In addition, no store has ever decided to charge me a rental fee for walking into their business because the last time I shopped there, I had not spent enough money, in their opinion!

Upon researching the Suburban Propane Company, I found a multitude of complaints, including price-gouging, inexplicable and unannounced rental fees, and exorbitant removal charges (or more appropriately, punishment fees) for customers who terminate service.  This is an egregious abuse of ethical business practice, if not illegal, and is worthy of formal complaint to the Better Business Bureau, as well as potential legal action on behalf of the consumer.  If at any time prior to this dispute being resolved, I discover that my gas tank has been disabled and/or its contents rendered inaccessible to me, I am prepared to report theft and destruction-of-property to the authorities.  I expect to hear from a Suburban Propane representative in a timely manner regarding this dispute.


This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 09/19/2010 10:37 AM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/r/Suburban-Propane/Prince-Frederick-Maryland-20678/Suburban-Propane-Unethical-Practices-Prince-Frederick-Maryland-642151. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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Updates & Rebuttals

#1 Author of original report

Rebuttal to "ex-employee/old propane guy"

AUTHOR: Jane - (USA)

To: "Ex-employee/old propane guy"

FYI: There is NO "minimum usage" (corrected your spelling -- no "e" in "usage") in my service agreement!  If you'd read my complaint thoroughly, you would have seen that I have been with Suburban for years -- 8 to be exact -- which leads to my next point. Your question as to why I have "stopped using the gas" is not only presumptuous but also incorrect and irrelevant; however, I will answer it anyway in order to set the record straight:  I only use propane for a gas cooktop; therefore, I have NOT stopped using it. 

When you state "If you propane use has changed ....", I assume you mean "If your propane use has changed ...."  My usage has NOT changed through the years -- again, it is used only for a gas cooktop!  Prior to the 9/15 invoice, no "minimal" had ever been "automatically computed" (again, I corrected your spelling of "automatically"), and regarding your so-called solutions, why should I consider "eliminating [my] propane appliance" to avoid being the victim of unethical business practice?  Would you care to reimburse me for my Thermador gas cooktop? 

As for the "option" of buying my tank, never would I give Suburban the satisfaction; however, as soon as every drop of gas in this tank is used, they can come pick it up, as I have every intention of giving my hard-earned money to a reputable company who does not have legal charges pending against them!  After researching, I discovered something that may interest you:  A class-action lawsuit against Suburban Propane!  The legal charges, interestingly, are identical to the ones I (and clearly dozens of other victims) have experienced.  It would not surprise me if Suburban made these random tank-fills to multitudes of people whom they *knew* would most likely *not* meet the "Minimum Bill" requirement, thereby scamming an exorbitant amount of money for unreceived goods from unsuspecting consumers. (Oh, and by the way -- regarding your sarcastic comment about returning a 1/2 filled propane grill tank and not expecting a refund -- I have used an outdoor gas grill for most of my life.  I keep a back-up tank in order to ensure that the one I return is empty!)  

Secondly, I did not call Suburban to "come to [me]" and fill the tank (and yes, before you start, I am on a "when called" basis, as I have called them in the past). Next, I have paid the rental fee on my tank; therefore, Suburban has no right to disable it anymore than a landlord has the right to change the locks on the doors of a house when a tenant has paid his/her rent; additionally, just because the landlord may "own" the house, any of the contents the tenant bought and placed within the house *belong* to the tenant, and he/she has a right to his/her possessions!  

Regarding your weak analogy about getting a phone bill if I don't make phone calls, an electric bill without using electricity, and a cell phone bill regardless of the minutes I use, of course I expect a bill for the amount used and/or any fees of which I was made aware, and agreed upon, at the initiation of my service agreement!  At no time, however, has the electric company ever charged me for electricity I did NOT use, regardless of whether or not they thought I had "used enough." 

I suggest you examine the class-action lawsuit currently pending against Suburban Propane before you make assumptions, "old propane guy."     

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#2 UPDATE EX-employee responds

Minimun Bill

AUTHOR: old propane guy - (United States of America)

When you signed your service agreement, the minimum useage was written on your agreement. Do you have a copy of it? Why have you stopped using the gas? Most often these minimums are tied to a price. The higher the minimum, the lower the price. When you signed up, you probably wanted to pay the lowest price, so you have a higher minimum. If you don't make any phone calls, do you still get a bill? If you don't use any electricity, do you still get a bill? If you have a cell phone, you pay for the MINIMUM even if you do not use all your minutes, and in most cases, your minutes do not carry over month to month. You talk about going to the gas station. Well you don't go to the propane station. You are using THEIR equipment and THEY ARE COMING TO YOU! The minimum was not indiscriminately applied. It was clearly stated on your agreement. The gas might be paid for, but it is in THEIR tank. THe minimum is figured on a daily basis, so if your minimum is $15.00 per month that equates to $.50 per day. It is automaticly computed at the time of delivery. You need to read your agreement. If you propane use has changed, you can also look into other options such as buying your tank, or eliminating your propane appliance. If you are using so little, you might want to look into getting a small grill tank and exchange it when empty at a convienence store. Just remember, if you take a tank that is 1/2 full to exchange it, you won't get any credit for the gas in the tank.
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