Title 9: Commerce and Trade
Chapter 63: CONSUMER PROTECTION
Sub-Chapter 01: General Provisions
9 V.S.A. § 2461b Regulation of propane
§ 2461b. Regulation of propane
(a)(1) In this section:
(A) "Consumer" means any person who, for consumption and not for resale, purchases propane through a meter or has propane delivered to one or more storage tanks of 2,000 gallons or less.
(B) "Seller" means a person who sells or offers to sell propane to a consumer.
(C) "Terminates service" means that a seller:
(i) disconnects, removes, or locks off that seller's propane tank;
(ii) reads a meter with the purpose of terminating service; or
(iii) takes other action that evidences an intent to terminate a service relationship with a consumer or evidences knowledge that the consumer requested termination of service.
(2) The Attorney General shall investigate irregularities, complaints, and unfair or deceptive acts in commerce by sellers.
(b) For the purpose of promoting business practices which are uniformly fair to sellers and which protect consumers, the Attorney General shall promulgate necessary rules and regulations, including notice prior to disconnection, repayment agreements, minimum delivery, discrimination, security deposits, and the assessment of fees and charges.
(c)(1) A violation of this section, or a rule or regulation promulgated under this section not inconsistent with this section, shall constitute an unfair and deceptive act in commerce in violation of section 2453 of this title.
(2) No contract for propane services shall contain any provision that conflicts with the obligations and remedies established by this section or by any rule or regulation promulgated under this section, and any conflicting provision shall be unenforceable and void.
(d) A seller shall not:
(1) assess a minimum usage fee;
(2) assess a fee for propane that is not actually delivered to a consumer; or
(3) require a consumer to purchase a minimum number of gallons of propane per year, except as part of a guaranteed price plan that meets the requirements of section 2461e of this title.
(e) When terminating service to a consumer, a seller shall comply with the following requirements.
(1)(A) If the propane storage tank has been located on the consumer's premises, regardless of ownership of the premises, for 12 months or more, the seller may not assess a fee related to termination of propane service, including a fee:
(i) to remove the seller's storage tank from the premises;
(ii) to pump out or restock propane; or
(iii) to terminate service.
(B) If a consumer has received propane service from the seller for less than 12 months, any fee related to termination of service may not exceed the disclosed price of labor and materials.
(2) Subject to subdivision (h)(5) of this section:
(A) Within 20 days of the date when the seller terminates service or is notified by the consumer in writing that service has been disconnected, whichever is earlier, the seller shall refund to the consumer the amount paid by the consumer for any propane remaining in the storage tank, less any payments due the seller from the consumer.
(B) If the quantity of propane remaining in the storage tank cannot be determined with certainty, the seller shall, within the 20 days described in subdivision (2)(A) of this subsection, refund to the consumer the amount paid by the consumer for 80 percent of the seller's best reasonable estimate of the quantity of propane remaining in the tank, less any payments due from the consumer. The seller shall refund the remainder of the amount due as soon as the quantity of propane left in the tank can be determined with certainty, but no later than 14 days after the removal of the tank or restocking of the tank at the time of reconnection.
(3)(A) Any refund to the consumer shall be by cash, check, direct deposit, credit to a credit card account, or in the same method or manner of payment that the consumer, or a third party on the consumer's behalf, used to make payments to the seller.
(B) Unless requested by the consumer, a seller shall not provide a refund in the form of a reimbursement or credit to any account with the seller.
(4) If the seller fails to mail or deliver a refund to the consumer in accordance with this subsection, the seller shall within one business day make a penalty payment to the consumer, in addition to the refund, of:
(A) $250.00 on the first day after the refund was due; and
(B) $75.00 per day for each day thereafter until the refund and penalty payment have been mailed or delivered, provided that the total amount that accrues under this subdivision (B) shall not exceed 10 times the amount of the refund.
(5) Termination of service does not void any guaranteed price plan that meets the requirements of section 2461e of this title that has not expired by its own terms.
(f)(1) A seller of propane shall not refuse to deliver propane to a storage tank owned by a consumer if the consumer provides proof of ownership of the tank and the seller has conducted a safety check of the tank in accordance with NFPA 54 (National Fuel Gas Code) and NFPA 58 (Storage and Handling of Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code) of the National Fire Protection Association and complies with rules adopted by the Attorney General governing propane.
(2) If a seller of propane chooses to finance a consumer's purchase of a storage tank, the financing shall be a retail installment sale as provided in chapter 61 of this title.
(g) Nonpayment of the following charges may be the only basis for an interruption or disconnection of service: propane, leak or pressure test, safety check, restart of equipment, after-hours delivery, special trip for delivery, and meter read.
(h)(1) A seller who has a duty to remove a propane storage tank from a consumer's premises shall remove the tank within 20 days or, in the case of an underground storage tank, within 30 days of the earliest of the following dates:
(A) the date on which the consumer requests termination of service;
(B) the date the seller disconnects propane service; or
(C) the date on which the seller is notified by the consumer in writing that service has been disconnected.
(2) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (1) of this subsection, if a consumer requests that a tank be removed on a specific day, the seller shall remove the tank no more than 10 days after the date requested, or within the period required by subdivision (1) of this subsection, whichever is later.
(3) A seller who fails to remove a propane storage tank in accordance with this subsection shall make a penalty payment to the consumer of:
(A) $250.00 on the first day after the tank should have been removed; and
(B) $75.00 per day for each day thereafter until the tank has been removed and the penalty payments have been mailed or delivered, provided that the total amount that accrues under this subdivision (B) shall not exceed $2,000.00.
(4)(A) Notwithstanding subdivision (3) of this subsection, no penalty shall be due for the time a seller is unable to remove a tank due to weather or other conditions not caused by the seller that bar access to the tank, if the seller provides within five days of the latest date the tank was otherwise required to be removed:
(i) a written explanation for the delay;
(ii) what reasonable steps the consumer must take to provide access to the tank; and
(iii) a telephone number, a mailing address, and an e-mail address the consumer can use to notify the seller that the steps have been taken.
(B) The seller shall have 20 days from the date he or she receives the notice from the consumer required in subdivision (4)(A)(iii) of this subsection to remove the tank.
(5) A consumer who prevents access to a propane storage tank, such that a seller is unable to timely remove the tank from the property or determine the amount of propane remaining in the tank in compliance with this section, shall not be entitled to a refund for propane remaining in the storage tank pursuant to subsection (e) of this section until the consumer takes the reasonable steps identified by the seller that are necessary to allow access to the tank and provides notice to the seller that he or she has taken those steps, in compliance with the process established in subdivision (4) of this subsection. (Added 1985, No. 34, § 2; amended 2011, No. 47, § 19a, eff. May 25, 2011; 2013, No. 44, § 1; 2013, No. 111 (Adj. Sess.), § 1, eff. April 24, 2014.)