Fuel dealer fined for retaliation against customers who filed complaint


A Vermont heating fuel dealer will pay civil penalties and reparations for denying propane services to customers with unpaid accounts, the Attorney General's Office announced Wednesday.

Cota & Cota, a dealer serving about 10,000 customers in Vermont and New Hampshire, violated the state's consumer protection law, which regulates propane services in the state, by requiring cash-only customers to make payments before receiving their next delivery.

The company settled with the Attorney General's Office to change these practices, but later canceled the accounts of the two customers who brought the complaint.

"My office determined that Cota & Cota's actions, immediately after settling other consumer protection claims, were retaliatory," Attorney General Bill Sorrell said in a statement. "We reacted swiftly. We will not tolerate consumers being targeted for shedding light on unfair business practices."

The company will pay $5,000 in civil penalties, $2,500 to the two customers, and any additional fines.

The company declined to comment on the details of the settlement.

The Attorney General's Office on Wednesday also announced a settlement with Bourne's Energy, which provides propane service to about 7,000 central Vermont customers, for charging more for in-person payment on delivery after being charged less through the company's online payment system. Bourne will refund customers who were overcharged as part of the settlement agreement.

The state amended the consumer protection law in 2011 to increase penalties on propane dealers for certain business practices, including rules relating to terminating service and fee disclosures.


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