EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 4, 2014

New complaints emerge from Fred Fuller customers

State offices receive calls about phone, delivery woes

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — Customers are worrying about Fred Fuller Oil deliveries again.

So are New Hampshire officials.

Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti yesterday acknowledged an uptick in complaints about Fuller deliveries within the past 48 hours to the state, including the governor’s office.

There were at least a dozen complaints yesterday.

“We are getting complaints,” Boffetti said. “We’re all aware there is an issue.”

He didn’t have a precise number, but said it was enough to create a concern that the Fuller issue is back where it was in January.

Boffetti said state officials are talking to company representatives.

It’s the second time this winter Fuller customers have complained to state officials about problems getting deliveries and even getting calls through to the company.

Fuller blamed phone problems during high demand in frigid weather back in January. Boffetti said they also are blaming phone problems this time, too, and have told the state they have technicians working on the trouble.

Boffetti said he’s recommended the company use cellphones as a contingency and let customers contact them through those, so they can get in delivery calls.

It took several tries to get the phone answered yesterday afternoon at Fuller’s headquarters in Hudson.

A company representative who answered the phone said a reporter’s message would be relayed to management. A call wasn’t immediately returned. The company’s lawyer also didn’t immediately return a call.

Boffetti said he’s also concerned that Fuller customers aren’t getting automatic deliveries or only partial deliveries.

“I’ve had pointed questions for them as to why,” Boffetti said. “People who should be getting their delivery are not getting a full delivery.”

Boffetti was awaiting responses to his questions.

“We’re trying to see what’s going on and get answers,” he said.

The state, meanwhile, is forwarding customer complaints to Fuller.

Officials have tried to work with the company throughout its problems this winter to see customers get their oil.

The state set up a hotline for customers back in January, later terminated as the problem abated.

Company CEO Fred Fuller personally told the state’s director of emergency management that the company would reimburse the state for the expense of the hotline and create a fund to assist customers who had been incovenienced.

“We have been in business since 1969 and this is the only time anything like this has every happened,” Fuller told Perry E. Plummer in a letter last month.

Fuller also informed customers about the fund.

“We regret that the failure of our company’s telephone system adversely affected any of our customers; however, we are grateful that the cause in this instance, the only such interruption we have suffered in company history, was the result of a failed system that we have been able to replace,” Fuller told customers.

Fuller went so far as to tell customers that measures were taken “to prevent such a catastrophe from again affecting our ability to provide the award-winning services that you have come to rely on from our company.”

Boffetti didn’t want to discuss what enforcement measures the state might take, saying officials at this point are concentrating on seeing Fuller gets oil delivered.

“We need to focus on them delivering to their customers,” he said.

The company has provided the Attorney General’s Office with regular updates on deliveries to pre-buy customers since the problems originated this winter, he said.

“He’s delivering oil to his customers,” Boffetti said. “He’s working down that balance.”

But some customers have had enough with Fuller.

Linda Cipoletti of Londonderry said yesterday she has switched to another company after 12 years with Fuller because she was concerned Fuller couldn’t make timely deliveries.

“I have a son with medical issues and I can’t afford to have a house that’s freezing,” Cipoletti said. “I don’t want to be sweating it out.”

Cipoletti stuck with Fuller during delivery troubles earlier this winter. Ultimately, she got her oil.

But she said she was again having problems getting a delivery last week.

“I can’t afford to keep playing that game,” Cipoletti said.

Cipoletti was surprised, given that Fuller’s delivery woes in December and January brought attention from state officials.

“I am very surprised,” she said. “Why is this happening again?”

Cipoletti wasn’t the only one worried.

“Almost out, have called several times, (they) keep promising delivery,” Brenda Finnigan Wilson posted yesterday on Facebook. “Here we go again.”

She had company.

“Had major trouble with getting my delivery. Took almost two weeks and numerous phone calls,” Kerri Dignan Madigan posted on Facebook. “A friend is experiencing the same.”

Other Fuller customers urged patience.

Rose Chretien Noetzel acknowledged problems reaching Fuller by phone, but said she got through after trying another number on the company website.

“Try Fuller’s Hudson office. Last week, I gave them a ‘my tank’s getting low, can you make a delivery? call on Monday, they were able to fill it the next day,” Paul Yankowskas posted on Facebook.

Boffetti encouraged customers to be persistent, even going to the company’s offices if necessary.

“I’d do what I need to do to get in touch with them,” he said.