March 12, 2021
LANSING – On the heels of the State’s announcement of the MI Propane Plan, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is reminding residents of the crucial role they play in reporting price-gouging and other consumer protection issues related to the energy industry.
In preparation for the eventual shutdown of Enbridge’s Line 5 pipelines, several state agencies jointly announced the MI Propane Plan earlier today. The plan focuses on ensuring Michigan’s energy needs are met and protecting consumers from price-gouging – a top priority for Attorney General Nessel.
“Price-gouging is against the law, and the energy industry is not exempt from those regulations,” Nessel said. “This office has taken legal action in the past to protect people from excessively high energy prices, and I will not hesitate to do so again to protect the pocketbooks of Michigan’s consumers.”
The Michigan Department of Attorney General in 2018 filed a lawsuit against AmeriGas, one of the largest retail suppliers of residential propane in the country, for violating the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). The lawsuit remains pending in the Monroe County Circuit Court. Last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied two applications for leave filed by AmeriGas. The Court’s actions clear the way for a jury trial expected later this year.
In its complaint, the Attorney General’s office alleges that AmeriGas, during the 2015-16 winter, charged a subset of its customers grossly excessive per-gallon prices on propane, sometimes as much as nearly double the statewide average, as determined through a pricing survey conducted by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Some AmeriGas customers were reportedly charged more than $3 per gallon, while the average ranged between $1.63 and $1.71.
To provide additional protections for consumers from price-gouging, the Attorney General’s office also helped draft legislation that was introduced last year in the Michigan Senate. The three-bill package was crafted to enhance existing investigative tools, add criminal penalties and expand the ability to apply price-gouging enforcement efforts to business-to-business relations.
Though the legislation failed to gain traction last year, the Attorney General’s office urges the Legislature to re-introduce and reconsider the proposal, as it would allow for expanded enforcement of price-gouging during an emergency declaration or a market disruption, such as for energy products.
The Attorney General’s Corporate Oversight Division currently handles consumer complaints related to propane price-gouging and has a zero-tolerance policy for grossly excessive pricing under existing laws.
“Consumer complaints provide my office with an on-the-ground perspective of what customers are seeing, and that is vital to my role of enforcing state and federal laws,” Nessel said. “I encourage anyone who suspects they are being taken advantage of by an energy supplier or another business to contact my office immediately so the proper authorities can evaluate the situation and determine whether legal action is warranted.”
Your connection to consumer protection is just a click or phone call away. Consumer complaints can be filed online at the Attorney General’s website, or by calling 877-765-8388.