New Hampshire political leaders are getting involved in the Fred Fuller Oil delivery trouble.
Gov. Maggie Hassan announced late yesterday the state has established a 24-hour hotline for Fuller customers in “imminent danger” of running out of fuel.
“I am very concerned about the news reports around delivery problems with Fred Fuller Oil Co., especially given the current cold temperatures and the potential health and safety risks to citizens,” Hassan said. “Fred Fuller is a private business, and the state has little legal authority to regulate its delivery practices. However, we do have a responsibility to act to protect the health and safety of our citizens.”
Fuller customers who haven’t been able to schedule a delivery and are almost out of fuel can call the hotline at 227-0002 for assistance.
Hassan noted the Attorney General’s Office is actively investigating the situation.
Windham Selectman Al Letizio Jr., himself a Fuller customer, has asked state Sen. Jim Rausch, R-Derry, to help.
“He’s really very concerned about residents being hurt,” Letizio said of Rausch.
Rausch planned to speak with the Attorney General’s Office, Letizio said.
The Attorney General’s Office on Monday said it has received more than 30 complaints about delayed deliveries from the Hudson-based Fred Fuller Oil and Propane Co., one of the state’s largest heating oil distributors.
The company operates a small satellite office in downtown Derry.
Customers like Letizio have had difficulty getting fuel delivered or even phone calls through to the company for days.
Letizio said he’s been hearing from constituents.
“As a selectman here in town, I’m getting lots of emails and messages, dozens of reports,” Letizio said.
The company’s attorney blamed the delivery trouble on huge demand, cold weather and a phone system that went down for two days.
The Attorney General’s Office said Fuller has assured the state justice department that it remains fiscally sound and is working on the problem.
The company attorney said operations were expected to be back to normal this week.
Letizio said he confronted a Fuller delivery driver in Windham. The driver, after hearing out Letizio, followed him home and provided 50 gallons of heating oil.
But Letizio said he and his wife have since been unable to get through to the company by phone.
The company attorney has encouraged people to keep trying and also to use Fuller’s online message system.
The Attorney General’s Office has said Fuller has been cooperative in trying to resolve the issue.
The company’s customers have berated Fuller on the company’s Facebook page.
“You’re fired,” one wrote.
Derry Town Councilor Al Dimmock said people have spoken to him about Fuller, including a neighbor who was promised a delivery Monday, but then told it would be yesterday before fuel could get there.
Dimmock, a Fuller customer for more than two decades and himself a former oil deliveryman, is urging patience.
“Give them a little time,” Dimmock said.
He personally traveled to Fuller’s offices in Hudson and said trucks were busy.
“They are definitely making an effort,” Dimmock said.
He speculated the company was overwhelmed by the weather and demand. He said his oil usually would last until mid-February, but his furnace is working overtime, he is running low and expecting a delivery this week.
“I believe they are doing the best they can,” Dimmock said.
Londonderry Town Council Chairman John Farrell, in a message posted on the town website, said he had visited the company and was told a two-day delay from a supplier was the reason for the delivery backup, as well as phone problems.
“Fred Fuller expects to resume normal operations within the next 72 hours, as staff are working between 12-18 hours per day to rectify both matters,” the notice said.
The notice encouraged people in need of emergency fuel assistance to contact Greater Derry Community Health Services at 425-2545.
Pelham residents, on the town’s electronic message board, were relating their experiences with Fuller.
“I visited their Hudson office today and it was crowded,” Christina Miller posted Monday night.
She later posted Fuller had delivered 100 gallons, but not a full tank. She said she was monitoring the situation.
Letizio said his family just received an early renewal form from Fuller for next year, requesting a deposit.
The Letizios have yet to find another distributor.
He said he is concerned about other customers who are locked into contracts with Fuller and may not have the resources to explore other options.
“There are a lot of consumers out there in a vulnerable situation now,” Letizio said.
That’s why it is important for the state to keep pressing the company to fulfill obligations to customers, he said.
“Where is our protection?” Letizio asked.
Customers with non-emergency complaints about the company can file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Bureau at doj.nh.gov/consumer/complaints/index.htm. Request a complaint form by calling the consumer hotline at 1-888-468-4454.