It's deja vu all over again for Fred Fuller Oil & Propane Co. customers facing empty oil tanks and a heating oil supplier they say is making only partial or delayed deliveries.
Some customers have resorted to buying diesel fuel and hand-pouring it into their tanks. Others say they had to buy oil from other companies, even though they still have hefty balances on their current Fuller Oil pre-buy home heating contracts.
"I've never seen anything like this," Adele Mangum, 69, of Derry, an 18-year Fuller Oil customer, said Monday. She is switching to Haffner's Oil.
The head of the New Hampshire Attorney General's Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau said he spoke several times Monday with Fuller's attorneys at Preti Flaherty law firm in Concord after state agencies started receiving complaints from dozens of Fuller customers last week.
"It sounds like we are back to some of the same problems we had in December. Not the same magnitude, but some of the same kind of problems," Senior Assistant Attorney General James T. Boffetti said.
One concern is Fuller Oil may be encountering problems paying for oil given the company lost a significant amount of pre-buy business for next winter's heating season in the wake of the delivery breakdown that caused a near public safety crisis earlier this winter.
"He has had a significant reduction in people who signed up for the pre-buy (heating contracts) in 2014-2015. I don't have the list yet, but informational indications from the company is the figure is significantly reduced from the prior year (2013-2014)," Boffetti said.
Boffetti said Fuller Oil has been providing bimonthly reports to his office showing it is making deliveries on the outstanding pre-buy contracts for the current heating season and has futures contracts to back them up. He said the next scheduled series of reports are due Friday.
Fuller Oil general manager Oren Havey points to phone problems; he said he expects to have the part that will repair the most recent failure to the company's independent telephone service by today and all lines should be operational by midday. "We are trying to deliver as quick as we can to everybody we can," Havey said.
Asked why pre-paid and budget customers are receiving partial or delayed deliveries, Havey said "the only thing is the phones are making it a lot worse than it actually is."