DEAR READERS: Recently, Sun Spots received a couple inquiries about a similar topic, so she decided to address them together. Here are the letters (specific company names have been removed):

DEAR SUN SPOTS: My neighbors are seniors who live on a fixed income. They recently changed propane suppliers to save money. It has been several weeks since they made the change. They have called the previous supplier to request that they pick up their tanks. The tanks hold unspent fuel and they have a credit balance with their previous company. They are due this money — over $600 — and it would help them meet their future needs.

Calls to the company have resulted in an answer of, “These things take time.” It appears to me that the company is holding this couple’s money hostage. I am curious if other readers have had similar experiences? Thanks. — Norman, No Town.

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I’ve exhausted all regular means of communication to resolve my account with my former propane company. In the beginning of March, I ceased being their customer and asked them to pick up their propane tanks, one of which is 45 percent full, and the other 50 percent, and for them to credit me for the remaining fuel and then I would pay the balance. Each month since then, I have received a statement which continues to rise with added on late payment charges.

When my May 30 statement came, I phoned for the third time and was told that they would remove the late charges and the $69 sign-up for a new year charge. Today, I received a notice from a collection agency in California, demanding $218.39.

The propane tanks are still sitting in my yard, and therefore, I have not been credited for the gas in them which would lower what I owe them. During the year in which I was a customer, I was never late with a payment. I just want to get this cleared up because now it is obviously affecting my credit rating which was high. Thank you for whatever you can do. — Rev. Jane, Andover.

ANSWER: Sun Spots reached out to Maine Energy Marketers Association for answers on this one. MEMA President Jamie Py was kind enough to share his knowledge. First of all, there are no industry standards of the amount of time it might take a company to come and retrieve their old tanks once a customer decides to move on to another fuel provider. It is based on individual company policy.

There are factors that might come into play, like season and availability of technicians and proper equipment to remove the old tank(s). According to Py, it takes a boom truck to remove a tank and it may take time to schedule a truck. During winter months, servicing customers with heating needs might take priority over tank removals, and in the summer, time is spent with new installs in preparation for the colder weather. Py says the tanks are valuable, so the old companies should get to it eventually.

It’s important to read the fine print when signing up for fuel delivery with any company. Some charge for things like early termination of lease or tank pick-up, and some do not issue credits for unused propane.

Use the QR code to go to Sun Spots online for additional information and links.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name (we won’t use it if you ask us not to). Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can be emailed to [email protected], tweeted @SJ_SunSpots or posted on the Sun Spots Facebook page at facebook.com/SunJournalSunSpots. This column can also be read online at sunjournal.com/sunspots. We’ve joined Pinterest at http://pinterest.com/sj_sunspots.


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