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While winter so far this year has been primarily mild, but Massachusetts consumers still have a few months to go before trading in their scarves and winter boots for sunglasses and sandals. When colder weather comes our way, the impact will be evident in consumer’s heating bills. According to the MA Department of Energy Resources, prices for heating oil recorded in January 2017 have reached highs of $3.80 and lows of $2.01 Further, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that consumers who warm their home with heating oil will spend an average of $378 more this winter, a 38% increase.

The Division of Standards, one of the five agencies under the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, is responsible for monitoring fuel oil delivery trucks to ensure that consumers are receiving accurate deliveries. Officers from this agency work to do the following:

  • Check deliveries, looking for illegal fuel oil by-passes and checking meter security seals for possible delivery tampering;
  • Examining tickets to ensure that the number of gallons printed on the delivery ticket matches the number of gallons indicted on the meter display;
  • Conduct random stops of oil delivery trucks to make sure customers get what they are paying for;
  • Ensuring that trucks have been properly certified;
  • Ensuring that delivery slips are being printed out properly.

Over the last two years, the Division of Standards has written 7 civil citations to various oil companies for infractions found during random stops of delivery trucks, resulting in $1,212 in fines Issues ranged from outdated seals on the trucks, unsealed or broken meters, delivery tickets that did not have the price per gallon printed on the ticket or customers arguing they were either overcharged or received a “short” delivery.

Consumers looking to help reduce the cost of heating their homes and ensuring accurate deliveries throughout the winter should:

  • Make sure to keep all of your delivery slips. The delivery tickets can be used by weights and measures for auditing purposes in the event you are questioning the amount of fuel delivered.
  • Check your delivery ticket to make sure the amount of gallons ordered matches the amount delivered and that the amount is mechanically printed on the ticket. Massachusetts law requires delivery tickets be mechanically printed and must display the date, price per gallon, total gallons delivered, and the identity of the person making the delivery.
  • Make sure the price per gallon appears on the ticket at the time of delivery
  • Check the bill sent from the supplier to make sure the unit price charged is the same as on your delivery ticket.
  • Have your heating oil and propane heating equipment serviced to ensure they’re in peak operating condition.
  • Purchase a programmable thermostat and set it lower at night and during the day if you are not at home.
  • Average out your daily usage between deliveries. If you observe a spike in the average daily usage and the weather has not been colder than normal contact the Division of Standards or your local weights and measures department.
  • If someone doubts they received their full delivery quantity, they should contact their local weights and measures office or the Division of Standards at (617) 727-3480.

If you have additional questions, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by calling our Consumer Hotline at (617) 973-8787, or toll-free in MA at (888) 283-3757, Monday through Friday, from 9 am-4:30 pm. Follow the Office on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer. The Baker-Polito Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation along with its five agencies work together to achieve two goals: to protect and empower consumers through advocacy and education, and to ensure a fair playing field for all Massachusetts businesses. The Office also oversees the state’s Lemon Laws, data breach reporting, Home Improvement Contractor Program and the state’s Do Not Call Registry.

 

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