A PROTEST AGAINST DECEPTIVE PRACTICES,
PRICING POLICIES AND PROPAGANDA

This is essentially a report on my experiences in this 2005-6 "Heating Season."
I am a customer of Lancaster, PA's largest energy company, Leffler, inherited from the earlier SICO by merger.

My first "problem" with them this season was my reaction to a large invoice they sent in early Fall for "capping off" the oil tank of our house in Rohrerstown. I wrote a letter of protest stating that - having had a budget contract for years - I insisted that it was customary for that "capping off" to be done at the end of a heating season, c.q. sometime in May. Therefore, they should charge me at the prevailing price at the end of the previous heating season. They graciously revised their invoice accordingly, which reduced the per gallon and overall cost considerably.

The second problem dealt with their December statement, from which I noted that I had been charged the "cap-price" for all deliveries during the season. I did some research on costs of oil, found that it actually had decreased this Fall and concluded Leffler really "socked it" to me (and presumably their other customers) so I wrote them a letter of complaint on December 21, 2005.
I was happy to receive an Email response from the General Manager of Leffler, as early as December 28, 2005.
In my response, I thanked him for his explanation, but pointed out that the other Lancaster suppliers must have had the same experiences with oil prices - yet managed to charge much lower prices. I also pointed out that I felt I acted on behalf of all customers when I had asked for an adjustment. Finally, responding to his suggestion that I might consider "playing the market" and discontinue being their customer, I stated that I did not want to "change horses in midstream," so would stick with them for this heating season.

Imagine my unpleasant surprise to receive Leffler's next communication, on January 28, 2006, together with their account statement for the season to-date: Leffler to E-Z Pay Friend, Jan 13, 2006, together with this NORA brochure:
NORA brochure enclosed by Leffler, Jan.13, 2006 (cover) and NORA brochure enclosed by Leffler, Jan.13, 2006 (text)

Besides the irony of being titled an "E-Z Pay Friend', I disliked the very first paragraph of the "undated" brochure stating that "oil prices were rising".

(please click on graph to enlarge)
I plotted up the results of my earlier research on Cost of #2 Heating Oil, Port of Philadelphia and found some other graphs supporting my opinion that, during the relevant time period for Leffler's statement, prices had gone down (e.g.Mass Energy Oil Prices, Sep 2005 - Jan 2006)

Consequently, I sent out two E-mails for further enquiry:
  • Email to NORA, comments and request for information, Jan 28, 2006
  • Request to Leffler for information, Jan 30, 2006
    Right now, I anxiously await their anticipated responses: NORA is a combination of oil dealers, including amongst its many directors the General Manager of Leffler's. Considering that Congress decreed that a certain percentage of the oil price be used to support NORA's stated aims, I feel entitled to an early response from them. Most of their activities look fine, but I take issue with their "public education" if it is going to consist of propaganda, i.e. such generalized and unsupported statements as shown in the first paragraph of their brochure. Of course, this touches on other related issues, e.g. the exorbitant fourth quarter profit of EXXON-MOBIL, the desirability for higher taxes on oil to allow fair global competition between US and overseas farmers, EPA's gruesome "public education" campaigns regarding the alleged benefits of "Biosolids", etc. but that is another story or series of stories.

    Since the NORA brochure refers the readers to their oilheat dealers for additional questions, I would expect Leffler to be eager to providing responses to their customers, especially their E-Z Pay Friends (or am I supposed to be too easy-going to bother?)
    Anyhow, a week went by without replies from either NORA or Leffler, so I Emailed each a reminder.
    Believe it or not, but by now a second week almost has rolled by and I am still waiting. What to do? I was going to write a letter to the Editor but since I do not have their replies yet, I elect to put this preliminary outline on my website. So, word of caution, this story is not complete yet, but if you have any reactions to it, and/or are another E-Z Pay Friend, please contact me with your comments!


    BLO fecit 20060209 - stories
    NOTES: (A) I paid the so-called "cap-price" (not the "fixed" price) of $ 2.599 per gallon for 2005/6 home deliveries made by Leffler on these dates: 10:27, 12:07, 12:22, 12:28, 12:29, 01:19 and 01:27
    (B) Harry paid $ 2.09 per gallon on 12:07; Steve paid $ 2.35 per gallon on 01:04
    (C) As of Feb 17, 2006, still no reply from Leffler nor NORA. To my surprise, however:
    (D) Google accorded my story the fourth link from the top of a total of about 104,000 links to Leffler Energy . . .
    (E) ...which subsequently and mysteriously disappeared a few days later
    (F) Finally a reply from Leffler dated March 13, 2006 (none yet from NORA)