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May 15, 2014

AG continues propane price gouging probe

TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed subpoenas against propane provider AmeriGas amid allegations the company gouged some customers during the state’s brutal winter.

Schuette’s office filed a legal petition on May 9 against AmeriGas Partners LP in 25th Judicial Circuit Court in Marquette. The document contains allegations AmeriGas overcharged several Michigan customers, including a Traverse City couple who complained they were quoted one price, then billed another.

The document also lists complaints from a Fife Lake resident who said she locked in her price of propane at $1.79 per-gallon at AmeriGas-affiliated Holton’s LP Gas Company in Fife Lake, but then was billed $3.57 per-gallon.

Schuette said the subpoenas are part of his office’s probe into high propane prices this winter. It follows a petition his office filed in March to obtain more information on the business practices of Ferrellgas, another propane provider.

“We had over 400 complaints statewide and dozens and dozens from AmeriGas (customers),” Schuette said. “When people sign a contract with the anticipation of certain prices, and then get gouged and billed at a higher price, that’s not right.”

AmeriGas Director of Corporate Communications Kate Stickel said the company is aware of the subpoena and is reviewing the petition’s allegations.

“Everyone here is confident we didn’t violate any of the Michigan Consumer Protection law,” Stickel said. “We’re going to cooperate with the attorney general’s office and are looking forward to this being over very soon.”

The Michigan Consumer Protection Act gives the attorney general authority to investigate allegations of unfair business practices.

Schuette’s petition said a Traverse City couple filed a complaint against AmeriGas after locking in at a price of $1.99 per-gallon. The couple claimed the price was not honored in two consecutive billings. The Attorney General’s Office contacted AmeriGas on the couple’s behalf and company officials said they would fix the problem. The couple was to receive a concession price of $1.90 per-gallon.

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