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Howard Co. residents overcharged for propane service

Customers of a local propane supplier were unknowing charged a fee once they suspended service with the company, according to the Howard County office of consumer affairs.

United Propane of Millersville in Anne Arundel County unfairly charged 39 Howard residents who discontinued service a "final processing fee," ranging from $12.59 to $250, which they had not been made aware of previously, the consumer affairs office said.

United Propane denies any violation of the law, agreed to refund a total of $2,783.01 to customers by the end of this month and to stop charging the termination fee, according to the county.

"Failure to provide information about add-on fees makes it impossible for consumers to compare prices among merchants and make smart purchasing decisions. In addition to harming consumers, undisclosed add-on fees also create an unlevel playing field for competitor merchants," said Rebecca Bowman, administrator of the consumer affairs office.

The company is required to disclose such costs, according to an agreement the company made with the county, which was made after the consumer affairs office received complaints from a Jessup resident.

Any consumer who paid a final processing fee in 2010 or 2011 and who does not receive a refund from United Propane by April 30 should contact the consumer affairs office at 410-313-6420 or consumer@howardcountymd.gov.

jkanderson@baltsun.com

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