Attorney General Tom Corbett has announced a consumer settlement with a Lehigh County heating oil business which closed suddenly in Feb. 2008, resulting in nearly 200 complaints from consumers who did not receive the heating oil they had pre-purchased.The settlement requires the payment of at least $75,000 to consumers who purchased heating fuel that was not delivered.
Corbett said the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) with R.P. Hutchinson, Inc., of 33 S. Lea St., Macungie, requires the company to pay $75,000 for consumer restitution.
R.P. Hutchinson is also required to turn over any additional funds the company may collect from various outstanding accounts, until consumers have been fully repaid.
"R.P. Hutchinson promised consumers a steady supply of heating oil at a fixed price, but left many homeowners cold and facing financial uncertainty in the middle of the winter," Corbett said.
"The company's sudden announcement in March that it would not honor pre-paid heating oil contracts victimized consumers twice Ãƒ first, for not delivering the heating fuel that had already been paid for, and second, by forcing consumers to find new oil suppliers and purchase heating fuel at much higher prices."
Corbett said that R.P.
Hutchinson began entering into long-term heating oil contracts with consumers in July 2007, offering scheduled deliveries during the winter heating season for customers who pre-purchased fuel at a fixed rate of $2.389 per gallon.
In early-March consumers received a letter from the company stating their pre-paid contracts could no longer be honored.
Corbett said the Attorney GeneralÃ-s Office has received a total of 196 complaints from customers in Lehigh and Berks counties who pre-purchased heating oil from R.P. Hutchinson but did not receive the full amount of their contracts.
All of those consumers will be contacted directly by the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection with information about the restitution they will receive.
Corbett said the settlement also prohibits R.P. Hutchinson, Inc. from operating a heating fuel or oil business, or any other business that involves accepting consumer pre-payment for goods or services.
The AVC also specifically preserves the rights of individual consumers to take private legal action to recover any additional money they may be owed after the distribution of all the settlement funds.