GREENVILLE, Mich. (March 5, 2014)– Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is asking consumers to be on the lookout for price gouging from those who sell propane or heating oil.
Bitter cold temperatures and propane shortages have caused prices to skyrocket.
Schuette issued a warning about the practice Wednesday saying, “Attorney General Bill Schuette today warned suppliers against tactics that take advantage of consumers as Michigan residents continue to struggle with cold temperatures.”
The statement went on to say, “With the current cold snap and volatile propane prices due to increased demand and lower supply, Michigan consumers are already struggling with rising costs, making it hard on family budgets. We will not tolerate any unscrupulous behavior that violates Michigan law.”
“It`s price gouging,” said Alex Nash of Greenville. “You can tell by the difference in the prices when we filled them.”
Nash said if it isn’t, it certainly feels like it.
“It`s not right. People can barely live now,” he said. “You got to pay almost $1,000 just to put 30% in your propane tank.”
Nash said when they filled up their tank last March in 2013, the paid almost $900 for a full tank.
Now, he says they are paying that much for less than half a tank.
“It`s hard on us because we`re a low income family as it is,” said Nash.
He showed us the receipts and we broke down the numbers.
In March of 2013, the couple paid $894.98 for 400 gallons of propane.
That comes out to a cost of about $2.23 per gallon.
Then, in February of 2014, they paid $634.44 for 150 gallons of propane.
That just about doubled in price to around $4.23 a gallon.
The spokesperson for the Michigan Propane Gas Association, Joe Ross, is defending the industry in Michigan, saying that there is no proof that any gouging has been going on and there have been no convictions.
He said it’s not unusual for families who don’t lock down prices in the summer, by buying when it’s lower cost, to pay more in the winter.
This year he says it is worse because propane must be shipped in from as far away as Texas.
He said those shipping costs alone have caused prices to jump.
He said in the summer, they may have been at around $1.99 a gallon, now he’s seen it as high as $6 or $7 a gallon.
“The people who are really hurting, those are the folks that didn`t lock down a price early on,” said Ross.
Ross feels that there isn’t any gouging happening in West Michigan.
“Frankly, gouging, I`ve been with the association for over a decade, and once in a while when it`s really cold and prices go up, people complain about the high prices,” said Ross.
“I know there`s a lot of complaints at the AG`s office, maybe a couple hundred, but that`s you know, that`s people complaining about high prices frankly. I don`t think we`re going to see much come from this,” he said.
Whether the attorney general’s office finds a conviction for price gouging in Michigan, Alex feels the prices are too much for struggling families to bear.
“Having to spend that much money just to put a little bit, only 30%, of propane and that, that`s crazy I think. Yeah, that money could go a long ways. It`s just crazy,” said Nash.
The Attorney General’s Office says, “If consumers become aware of direct evidence of a conspiracy between companies, or have verifiable evidence of a retailer engaged in behavior that violates the Consumer Protection Act, they are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Divison at 1-877-765-8388 or file an online complaint at http://www.michigan.gov/ag.