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July 18, 2014
For More Information, contact:
Luther Strange
Joy Patterson (334) 242-7491
Alabama Attorney General
Claire Haynes (334) 242-7351
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(MONTGOMERY) -Attorney General Luther Strange today announced a
$500,000 settlement with ThompsonGas-Smokies LLC and Suburban Gas Propane
Partners LLC. The agreement was filed today in Jefferson County Circuit Court to settle
alleged violations of the Alabama Deceptive Trade Practices Act. Thompson’s and
Suburban’s regional headquarters is in Columbiana with numerous branches
throughout Alabama.
The Attorney General’s complaint alleged that in May 2012 Thompson and
Suburban billed approximately 2,000 of their customers a minimum usage or non-usage
fee ranging from $192.80 to $706.80. Many of these customers were the result of
Thompson’s and Suburban’s acquisition of other propane companies, with which the
customers had varying contracts that did not necessarily provide for the charging of
such fees.
“Alabama law requires that our consumers be able to rely upon contracts and
that they be provided clear notice of any changes that will incur new fees,” said
Attorney General Strange. “We will not allow businesses to impose fees on consumers
who were operating under a contract that did not provide for such fees. I am pleased
that consumers in this case will receive refunds and that abusive practices will no
longer be conducted.”
The consent decree provides refunds to Alabama consumers and measures to
prevent recurrence of the alleged violations. Thompson and Suburban will send a letter
to affected customers notifying them of the refund amount due to them, as well as
information about procedures to contest the amount. Thompson and Suburban also
agreed to clear the balance on any of the incorrectly charged fees that were not paid,
and to pay customers for gas that was in removed tanks. Any future fee changes to new
or existing customers must be clearly set out in a prominent notice mailed to
Attorney General Strange commended those involved in reaching this
agreement, noting in particular Assistant Attorneys General Noel S. Barnes, T. Cameron
McEwen and Kyle Beckman.
501 Washington Avenue * Montgomery, AL 36104 * (334) 242-7300