Fuel FAQ's : More Topics & FAQs : Consumer Assistance Program : University of Vermont

University of Vermont

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I have questions about home heating fuel....


Do you have questions about propane service? Go back to our Heating Fuel page for more information.

Are the prices of home heating fuel regulated by the State of Vermont?

No.

If the prices are not regulated, is there any aspect of home heating fuels sales that are regulated?

Propane sales, deposits and disconnection notices are regulated by the Vermont Attorney General's Office under Consumer Protection Regulation 111. If you have a complaint about a propane supplier, or want to know more about your rights as a propane consumer, see our page on Propane,  contact CAP or file a complaint.

The State of Vermont does not regulate the price of heating oil, kerosene or other fuels used for heating.

Cord wood is regulated by the Department of Agriculture. If you were delivered a cord of wood that did not measure 4 feet x 4 feet x 8 feet, call the Consumer Protection Section of the Department of Agriculture at 802-828-2436. Wood pellets are not regulated.

The Vermont Department of Children and Families certifies certain suppliers of home heating fuel as eligible to participate in the Fuel Program, which provides Fuel Assistance Program recipients with funding for heating fuel during the heating season.

Does anyone regulate pre-buy contracts?

A law passed in 2006 provides additional protections to consumers who purchase “pre-buy” contracts for their heating needs from heating fuel dealers. Click here for the full text of the law.

What does the pre-buy contract law provide?

As to pre-buy contracts and price protection plans for home heating fuels, dealers must:
  • give you a written contract;
  • help ensure that your money goes to getting your fuel by obtaining a surety bond, letter of credit or a fuel futures contract to cover the fuel you pre-buy – and let you know which of these the dealer is going to use;
  • reimburse you within 30 days of the end of the contract for any unused portion of the amount you paid, unless you agreed otherwise.
The law also gives dealers and other members of the industry the right to sue suppliers that fail to honor contracts for supplying fuel to the dealer.

Does Vermont have a law against price gouging?

Vermont's law on price gouging will not help most consumers unless there is a market emergency. It will not help consumers who pre-bought their heating fuel when the price was high.   The price gouging statute limits the ability for fuel suppliers to raise fuel prices during a "market emergency," which must be declared by the governor.  Normal fluctuations in market pricing would not invoke this statute.

What if I "locked-in" a price in a pre-buy contract and the price goes down?

When you enter into a pre-buy contract, you are betting that the price for heating fuel in the contract is lower than what the market price will be during the heating season. If the price goes down and stays down through the heating season, you lost the bet. Some fuel dealers have provisions in their pre-buy contracts that allow consumers to break the contract, usually by paying a monetary penalty based on the amount of fuel secured by the contract. Some pre-buy contracts have provisions requiring the consumer to buy all of their supply from the dealer, and some do not.

A contract is a legal obligation that both parties are bound to unless there is a legal reason why the contract should not be upheld. You may wish to consult with a private attorney as to the terms of your particular contract.

How do I make sense of my contract?

Fuel service contracts take many forms.  Some are pre-buy contracts, in which you agree to purchase a certain number of gallons of fuel for the season, others are price agreements, under which you agree to a certain price structure.  Regardless of what type of contract you have, you should read it carefully and be sure you fully understand the terms of any agreement you sign.  Be sure to keep a copy.  Some basic questions to ask about any fuel service agreement are:
  • What kind of service contract is this?
  • How many gallons do I have to commit to buy?
  • What is the price per gallon?
  • What other fees apply under this contract?
  • How long are these prices good for?
  • What happens if I cancel my contract or service?
If this information is not easily understandable in the contract, ask your fuel provider to give you this information, preferably in writing.

How do I go about getting help in paying my fuel bills?

Vermont 211
In June 2008, Governor Jim Douglas announced the creation of the Vermont Food and Fuel Partnership, creating a cabinet-level task force charged with carrying out the details of a new program to help Vermonters address rising food, fuel and gasoline costs. The program is being administered through Vermont 2-1-1, a program of United Ways of Vermont.

Vermont 2-1-1 is a single, centralized community resource information center, providing statewide information and referral services. To access the 211 network, dial "211"  from an 802 area code phone.

What other resources are available to help with paying for my energy costs?

Fuel Assistance: The Vermont Seasonal Fuel Assistance Program can help to pay part of your home heating bills. You might be eligible for fuel assistance if you:
  • Own your home or rent;
  • Pay for your heat directly or it is included in your rent;
  • Rent a room in someone else's home; or
  • Live in public, subsidized, or Section 8 housing AND your rent includes the cost of heat.
For more information, call the Fuel Assistance Program 1-800-479-6151 (toll free) or 1-802-241-1165 or TTY 1-800-225-3004

Community Action Agencies: Community Action Agencies are nonprofit private and public organizations that partner with the Agency of Human Services to help people help themselves in achieving self-sufficiency.

Energy Support: Green Mountain Power is offering a new pilot program called Energy Support to help low-income customers with their electric bills. To determine whether you qualify for this program, contact your local Community Action Agency (see above). If you are unsure where to apply, call 1-888-TEL-GMPC (1-888-835-4672).

Crisis Fuel Assistance: Crisis fuel assistance is available for Vermonters who experience a crisis during the winter heating season. Information on this program can be found on the web here. For assistance, you may apply at your local Community Action Agency. After-hours or weekends/holidays after Nov. 1, call 1-800-287-0589.

WARMTH funds: WARMTH funds are available for emergencies from October through May, only when you have not been able to find sufficient help through other means. WARMTH funds can be used up to three times during the heating season. To apply, contact your local Community Action Agency (see above).

Shareheat funds: Shareheat funds are available for heating emergencies for Central Vermont Public Service customers. Shareheat operates from September to May. To apply, contact your local Community Action Agency (see above).

For information and resources on how to lower your energy costs:

Vermont's Weatherization Program: This program is designed to help low-income residents to save fuel and money by improving the energy efficiency of their homes. To apply for assistance, contact the Vermont Weatherization office nearest you. You may also call 211. In addition, you can get individualized information on weatherization, efficiency, consumer information, and general assistance, click here.

Efficiency Vermont:  This is a Vermont-specific program that assists consumers by providing information on how to improve the efficiency of their homes, lower energy bills, find out why electricity bills are so high, and provides links to home heating information.

Energy Star: This site provides information on energy-efficient appliances and provides information on how to make homes more energy efficient.


Last modified April 06 2017 01:56 PM

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