CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A local family was forced to pay $300 just to turn on the heat.
More than a dozen people have filed complaints about slow propane deliveries from the company AmeriGas. Many of them said they ran out of propane in the middle of the winter, waiting for their new shipment.
Teresa Malcolm told WBTV she reached out to AmeriGas to fill her propane tank when it was less than 20 percent full.
“We were promised delivery and our account reflected that we should have the delivery by January 18th,” Malcolm said.
As the days passed and the tank continued to empty, Malcolm kept reaching out to make sure the propane would show up on time.
“We kept calling them and saying, ‘hey, you know what’s going on? When are we going to get our delivery of propane?’ I kept expressing to them that we were going to run out of propane,” Malcolm said.
Eventually, she did run out of propane. Malcolm said a customer service representative told her there was only one way to guarantee quick delivery.
“I told the girl on the phone this feels like extortion. Short of me paying $300 you’re not going to give me a delivery of propane, she said the procedure is that if you pay us $300 you go to the top of the list,” Malcolm said.
With no propane and no heat, Malcolm paid the $300 on January 19th and received her propane the next day.
Malcolm has company amongst AmeriGas customers. This month alone, 18 people filed complaints about slow deliveries from AmeriGas with the North Carolina Department of Justice. Some of them also mention having to pay the $300 to expedite the process.
“The number of complaints we’ve gotten about AmeriGas is deeply concerning. 47 complaints is a large number,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said.
North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein says the volume of complaints is worrying. He told WBTV his office has had extensive discussions with general counsel at AmeriGas but the onus of fixing the problem with deliveries is on the company.
“We are going to keep a hawk’s eye on AmeriGas to make sure they meet their customers’ needs,” Stein said.
WBTV reached out to AmeriGas to find out why so many customers were experiencing delays with their shipments. A spokesperson told us they had returned the $300 dollars Malcolm paid to expedite the delivery, but it might not show up on her credit card statement for several days.
The spokesperson wrote to WBTV via email, “We apologize to the Malcolm family because we know their situation could have been handled better on our end,” the statement read.
To fix the slow delivery issues AmeriGas says it’s doubling its customer service staff and expanding delivery service an extra day.
They did not address whether they would waive expedited delivery fees for delayed orders moving forward.
“They need to not gouge customers and ask them to pay $300 to expedite delivery. If you are past that delivery date, you have an obligation to your customer to get that delivery out,” Malcolm said.