State investigating allegations of price gouging propane customers
EAU CLAIRE, Mich. -- Michigan residents have filed more than 500 complaints with the state attorney general about propane companies they believe have been raising their prices unfairly. Is it actually price gouging or simply supply and demand?
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a warning to propane suppliers to not take advantage of their customers.
The state has a list of over 70 companies that are under investigation because of the complaints against them.
Complaints were filed against companies like the Farm Bureau Oil Company. The company said they had to raise their prices on propane dramatically because of the additional costs they incurred just to get propane.
People have been using more propane than normal during this unusually cold and snowy winter.
"It has been relentless, it has been snowy," said Bob Bishop, the transportation Manager for Farm Bureau Oil Company Berrien County. "Everything that could work against us has."
This snowy winter has come with a lot of obstacles.
"It has been very trying and very expensive for everybody," said Bishop.
We spoke with a resident who is on a fixed income and buys her propane from Farm Bureau.
Last August she bought 143 gallons at $1.59 a gallon for a total of $236.
In February, she bought just under 200 gallons at $3.75 a gallon for a total of $733.
Bishop says there was a ten day window where Farm Bureau was charging customers $5.50 a gallon.
"Our margin was no more than it was on it when fuel oil was a $1.50 a gallon. It was just very expensive to buy. We had to go as far as Mississippi to have the propane brought in, whereas the freight gets very expensive when you go 900 miles," said Bishop.
When it comes to the complaints made against them, Farm Bureau says they were not price gouging, they were just trying to stay afloat.
"I feel really bad about what fuel was but we could've sold it for what we paid for it and it still would have been way too much," said Bishop.
The attorney general says if you think you have been a victim of price gouging, you should fill out a form on their website.