NEWARK – With a recent February chill keeping home heating oil companies busy with deliveries, the Division of Consumer Affairs’ Office of Weights and Measures (“OWM”) is making sure consumers are getting every single gallon of heating oil they pay for.
In early morning surprise inspections near a Newark fueling depot Wednesday morning, OWM’s Fuel Meter Task Force, assisted by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (“PANYNJ”) Police Department, flagged trucks as they drove toward the depot to load up on the heating fuel before making deliveries to consumers.
Once the trucks were pulled over, Task Force members checked trucks for signs of meter tampering or compromised equipment that could result in consumers being charged for more oil than they receive. Trucks and drivers were also checked to make sure they had all required documentation. PANYNJ Police provided logistical and security support and conducted safety inspections of the trucks.
“New Jersey residents pay hefty sums to purchase hundreds of gallons of heating oil at a time to keep their residences warm during the winter months. We are making sure home heating oil companies are not cheating consumers by overcharging them and underdelivering oil,” said Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin. “Although a vast majority of the companies that sell heating oil are honest, surprise inspections help protect the integrity of the industry and keep bad operators from doing business in the State.”
Results of the inspection will be looked over in coming days to see if any owners are in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act or other state laws and regulations. If violations are found the trucks would be condemned, meaning red tags would be placed on the meter and no deliveries could be made until the issues were corrected and the meters re-inspected and recertified as fit for use. Notices of violation could be issued as well, carrying civil penalties between $50 and $500, depending on the types of violations cited.
In years past, OWM has found infractions ranging from minor violations to inaccurate meters that result in consumers being shortchanged. In one instance a truck was found to have a “crimped” air eliminator line that would have caused the meter to count air as fuel product and overcharge for oil.
“Consumers in New Jersey deserve to feel confident they are getting every drop of heating oil they pay for,” said Cari Fais, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “When companies fail to ensure the accuracy of their equipment or deliberately cheat customers, that confidence is undermined. The Fuel Meter Task Force will continue with its efforts to protect New Jerseyans from inaccurate pumps and dishonest business owners.”
Approximately 300,000 households in New Jersey rely on home heating oil. Merchants are required to provide consumers with a delivery ticket for each sale of home heating oil, and that ticket must include the date of delivery, number of gallons dispensed, per-gallon price, and total price.
Inspector Bryan Thomson of OWM’s Technical Services unit coordinated these inspections. Task Force members conducting the inspections included OWM inspectors David Grisi, William Sabo, Antonio Cotroneo, Katrina Eberly, Federico Isaza, Kyle Pierson, Mike Peeler, Richard Pluymers, and Kenneth Vehrkens.
Acting Director Fais thanked the PANYNJ Police Department for its assistance in this initiative.
Consumers who suspect a problem with the delivery of home heating oil can contact the State Office of Weights and Measures by calling 732-815-4840 or filing a complaint online at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov.