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Critics say bill to regulate oil pre-buys falls short of protecting consumers

CONCORD - Requiring heating fuel dealers to establish escrow accounts or other financial vehicles to protect the money of customers who enter pre-buy contracts ties the hands of businesses, opponents to Senate Bill 114 said Tuesday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Molly Kelly, D-Keene, would require fuel dealers to use either escrow accounts, a letter of credit or a surety bond to protect consumer pre-buys of heating fuel.

Propane and fuel oil dealers opposed the bill, saying it does away with a provision in current law that allows buying futures contracts.

Joseph Gagne, president of Propane Gas Association of New England, said the bill does not offer consumers the protections supporters say it does, noting a company in trouble will drain an escrow account before it goes out of business.

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