As pre-buy customers anxiously await deliveries from Fred Fuller Oil Company, the Attorney General’s Office is asking for more information about the Hudson-based firm.
“We are fielding complaints,” said Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti, who heads the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau.
He said company officials have assured him it isn’t a matter of not having enough oil supplies, or money to pay for them, but a delivery problem. That’s not enough to satisfy customers who have paid $2,000 or more on pre-buy contracts, but have not gotten the automatic deliveries they have paid for.
Some customers question whether Fuller’s personal tax and legal troubles are causing financial problems.
Boffetti said Monday that when tax liens were placed against Fred Fuller by the Internal Revenue Service in 2012 for $2.8 million in unpaid income taxes, the consumer protection office requested information about Fuller’s personal holdings. The state was satisfied that Fuller had adequate resources to meet the demand, Boffetti said.
That’s little comfort to the customers who haven’t received deliveries they paid for a year ago. Some of those customers are also rejecting the oil company’s explanation that Fairpoint Communications is to blame for customers not being able to get through on the phone.
Fairpoint spokesman Paul Nevins Monday said technicians have been working with the Fuller company, but said: “The service problems were unrelated to Fairpoint’s network ... The problem is inside their system.”
JoAnne Lazinsky, a Derry woman who is watching out for a friend’s oil supply as well as her own, said she’s been a Fuller customer for a quarter-century.
“We’ve had weather issues before,” she said, and oil was delivered.
Lazinsky said her friend ran out of oil; Lazinsky tried calling Fuller Oil without success.
“We finally got hold of Rockingham Oil,” she said, and were able to get a delivery to the friend’s home.
Bedford resident John VanUden said he called on the 40th day after his Nov. 15 automatic delivery. After repeatedly trying all the numbers for all the Fuller company locations, he was finally able to reach a person.
“They said delivery would be Jan. 7,” said VanUden. “They should have been here Dec. 23.”
Then, to his surprise, he said: “(Fuller) came here at 5 p.m. last night (Sunday).” But there was only room in the tank for 87 gallons, because VanUden had already bought oil from another dealer to avoid running out. “Fred Fuller should reimburse me,” he said.
To add insult to injury, he said, Saturday’s mail brought a contract from the Fuller company to pre-buy oil for next year.
Boffetti said there is really no protection for pre-buy customers in state law, which he called “an inadequate statute.”
He noted that when Flynn Oil in Exeter went out of business in 2009, customers lost a half-million dollars and had to buy their oil twice. Boffetti said he hopes that the situation with Fuller will be resolved soon and is only a delivery problem. But given current state law, with the pre-buy programs, he said: “You take a risk.”