Propane companies raked over coals

Posted on December 6, 2013 by Sonoma Valley Sun

Were your burgers-per-gallon lower than usual on the gas barbecue? No wonder — California’s two largest propane cylinder exchange companies illegally underfilled their tanks, according to a statewide lawsuit.

In 2008, facing rising fuel costs, the companies reduced the volume of propane in their tanks from 17 pounds down to 15 pounds, shortening the grilling time by between 1 and 1.5 hours, but did not reduce the actual price they charged retailers.

While the reduced weight of 15 pounds was shown on the labels, the signage on the storage cage -– the metal rack system outside of grocery stores, for example — inaccurately referred to the tanks as “full,” or as still containing 17 pounds.

The companies agreed to settlement announced December 5 by county district attorney’s offices around the state including Sonoma Count DA Jill Ravitch.

Under the stipulated Final Judgment, the Blue Rhino companies will pay a total of $1 million in civil penalties and costs, and the AmeriGas companies will pay a total of $800,000 in civil penalties and costs.

In addition, the companies, without admitting or denying wrongdoing, will be bound by an injunction requiring they post notices on their enclosures explaining the actual quantity of propane in the tanks. Rather than a continued grilling, the companies cooperated with in the investigation.

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