Mainers Struggle to Pay for Home Heating Oil

It’s that time of year again, temperatures are dropping below freezing almost every night and those who can’t afford heating oil are being left out in the cold.

Programs like LIHEAP help some people, but they’ve recently cut back. So what can a person do when they can’t keep their family warm?

“I couldn’t afford both heat and the mortgage, so I chose to heat the house for my kids.” said Sierra Scott, a single mother who lives in Dexter with her two children, but not for long.

Scott said she has to put her house up for sale because she can’t pay for a full tank of oil, she can only pay for 20 gallons of oil at a time, but the mother says local oil companies are refusing to deliver.

“I didn’t ask them to go out of their way. I said it doesn’t have to be today, it can be the next day, just on your way back through,” said the mother of two.

According to Chapter 19 from the Maine Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Rights, which regulates the sale of home heating oil from October 15th to April 30th. It states that a dealer cannot refuse a delivery if: the consumer has cash or government guaranteed payment, the dealer regularly serves the consumer’s area, and
the consumer requests at least 20 gallons.

Sierra meets all the requirements for a minimum oil delivery, plus up to a $20 surcharge.

If oil companies refuse to deliver to those who can pay for a minimum of 20 gallons in cash, they can face penalties.

An Assistant Attorney General, Jim McKenna said “You’ll be found of violating the Unfair Trade Practices Act if you don’t deliver heating oil to people who can pay for it.”

Scott says C.N. Brown is one of the companies who refused to deliver the 20 gallons to her home, but the company said they have no record of that conversation.

C.N. Brown Spokesperson, John Wheeler said “We’ve always treated out fuel assistance customers, our elderly customers, our customers who are in need with the utmost courtesy and the best service we can give them.”

Companies say they don’t make a profit in these emergency cases. It cost’s over $40 for a single delivery and most of the oil companies in Maine only have one or two drivers in each area they cover. But even so, chapter 19 is a rule all Maine oil companies must follow.

“If they refuse to deliver, call the Attorney General’s office and we’ll look into it,” said the Asst. Attorney General.

McKenna believes the best number to call is 211 for reporting any heating or oil related problems.

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