NH Senate voting on fuel contract protections

Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- New Hampshire's Senate is expected to vote Thursday on a bill that would expand protections for consumers who enter into pre-paid fuel agreements for home heating oil, kerosene or liquefied petroleum.

The bill would give dealers the option of maintaining a letter of credit, a futures contract or a bond representing 75 percent of the total prepaid deposits.

Current law gives dealers the choice of buying a futures contract representing 75 percent of the deposits, a bond totaling 50 percent or obtaining a letter of credit for 100 percent.

The law is aimed at protecting consumers from dealers who don't deliver the fuel after taking cash up front. New Hampshire lawmakers have worked to strengthen consumer protections after several dealers failed to deliver the promised fuel. Some dealers spent the up-front cash, then closed and left hundreds of customers with worthless contracts and empty oil tanks.

The Senate bill also would establish a registration and reporting requirement for dealers with the attorney general's office. The attorney general's office would be authorized to investigate dealers who failed to meet the law's reporting requirements.

The House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee decided to hold onto a similar bill to work on over the summer and fall before bringing it back to the House for a vote in January.