Natural gas shortage causes propane prices to increase

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HIGH RIDGE, MO (KTVI) - A natural gas shortage has caused propane prices to skyrocket across the Midwest. In St. Louis, the pain is being felt by families who use propane to heat their homes.

A spokesperson for the Ferrellgas company says in some areas, propane is selling at more than two times the previous record high.  That’s a strain for people like High Ridge resident Tim Gibbons. He usually pays about $600 for 200 gallons of propane, but last Thursday, he paid $895.

To make matters worse, when his propane was delivered Wednesday, $1,200 was debited from his account, without any warning. That’s nearly $6 per gallon.

Understandably upset, Gibbons called Ferrellgas, and claims a customer service representative told him, “That’s just the way we do business.”

But FOX 2 received a different response after contacting Ferrellgas.  It turns out that on Friday, the Oklahoma-based company changed their policy to deal with the unpredictable propane prices. Now, they’ll charge customers the price per gallon on the day of delivery, not on the day they placed the order.

But Gibbons ordered his propane the day before this policy took effect. And for that, he’s fuming: “You buy a product, it should be finalized the day you purchase it. They should not be able to change the price six days later. Bottom line.”

According to Ferrellgas, Gibbon's issue was a glitch.  Company spokesperson Scott Breckelmeyer says, “We have discovered that some deliveries that were entered into our system the day prior to this change were not price protected...We apologize for this error and are adjusting affected accounts accordingly to honor that previously quoted price.”

On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill demanded that a federal consumer protection agency look into whether these extreme price increases are being caused by normal market forces, or whether there are some fraudulent and abusive practices going on.