Consumer Protection: Home Heating RightsOctober 06, 2008 - TRCWe have noticed the temperature dropping in the last week. The cold, hard fact is that winter will be here before we know it. As we enter into the heating season, it is important to understand rights consumers and oil dealers have in our state. To protect the interest of Maine residents, our Attorney General has issued rules and regulations that we should all be aware of when dealing with heating our homes. Heating Oil An oil dealer may not refuse a delivery, even if money is owed to that dealer, as long as one has cash or government guaranteed payment to pay for the requested oil delivery. However, the dealer must be one who regularly serves the area of the residence requesting delivery and it must be for a minimum delivery of twenty gallons. While the dealer cannot refuse delivery under these conditions, it does not have to make as an emergency delivery; instead the company may deliver the oil it at the next scheduled delivery to that area. For an unscheduled delivery, the dealer has the right to charge an additional fee for the emergency service, but they must tell you about the extra cost, the reason for the extra charge, and when the next regularly scheduled delivery will occur in the area of the residence. The dealer's fee may not be more than the actual cost for making the unscheduled delivery. The dealer can add a $5 penalty if an order is not at least 50% of the tank's storage capacity or 100 gallons (whichever is less). Here is another helpful tip for oil delivery services: one can purchase two consecutive oil deliveries from the same dealer to become an established customer. The status of an established customer requires the dealer to treat one as they would another established customer. Let's say if the dealer provides prompt emergency services to some established customers, the dealer must then offer this service to all established customers. Firewood The State of Maine also protects those consumers who rely on firewood to heat a home. When dealing with firewood, it is important to understand how our state measures a sale of the product. The term used is a cord. In fact, Maine law does not allow for the sale of firewood in measurement terms of "rack," "pile," or "truckload" of firewood. It can only be sold as a stacked cord or loose cord. A stacked cord of wood is 4 feet wide, 4 feet high and 8 feet long and stacked "in a row, with individual pieces touching and parallel to each other in a compact manner." A loose cord, which is most common for delivery, is sold by the cubic foot at a measurement of 12 inches, 16 inches, or 24 inches in length. If sold at 12 to 16 inches in length, the wood must be in a space of 180 cubic feet and for 24 inches in length the space must be 195 cubic feet. All deliveries of firewood must be accompanied by a written receipt for any sale of more than $20. It is also helpful to get your wood far in advance of its use and be sure to stack the wood in a manner that allows for air circulation. As we enter an uncertain winter season it is important Maine citizens understand the rights consumers and business operator have under the law. For more information about consumer rights, contact the Maine Attorney General's Office at 1-800-436-2131 or www.maine.gov/ag. Looking ahead at energy-related matters, the Maine Legislature has been working to promote alternative energy production. This session, the Legislature enacted into law a program to encourage geothermal heating systems for Maine homeowners. The law allows the Maine Public Utilities Commission and Maine State Housing Authority to provide loans for geothermal heating systems. As your Senator I am committed to working on the issues that face us during these trying times. Thank you for allowing me to serve you in Senate District 30 and Maine. For questions or assistance contact me, Senator Elizabeth M. Schneider at (207) 866-7359 or toll free at 1-800-423-6900. You can also contact my Legislative Aide at the State House in Augusta at (207) 287-1515.TOWNS IN SENATE DISTRICT 30 ARE Alton, Argyle, Bradford, Edinburg, Enfield, Greenbush, Howland, Hudson, Kingman, LaGrange, Lee, Lincoln, Mattawamkeag, Maxfield, Old Town, Orono, Passadumkeag, Penobscot Indian Island, Springfield, Twombly, Veazie, Webster, and Winn.Senator Elizabeth M. SchneiderDarek M. Grant, Legislative Aide, Senate Majority Office3 State House StationAugusta, ME 04333www.mainesenate.org207.287.1515NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.