La Mesa woman's propane bill doubles without warning

La Mesa woman says her propane bill...

LAS CRUCES, New Mexico - A La Mesa woman says she was shocked after her gas bill jumped up to $493.95, nearly double what it normally is.

Carroll De La O, a retired school teacher, told ABC-7 her neighbors experienced the same increase. She lives out in the county and says she doesn't have access to natural gas. De La O relies on propane to heat her home, hot water and cooking.

For more than 20 years, De La O has rented a propane tank from the company ServiGas, which fills up the propane tank every couple of months. She pays them per gallon, but she says in January the company charged her nearly $4 per gallon, when she's normally charged somewhere around $1.55.

"(I was) flabbergasted, I mean just flabbergasted," De La O said, adding her friend's bill jumped up to nearly $800.

She says at least two other neighbors experienced the same thing. De La O says she was able to renegotiate her bill down. But fears others won't do the same.

"If people don't know that they can renegotiate these prices or stand up for themselves then they have some serious choices," she said. "Are my children going to be warm or am I going to make the rent? Am I going to have food or am I going to pay the bills?"

De La O said she too is on a fixed income. She says she works hard to not over indulge, such as keeping the thermostat at 65 degrees.

"When you're making sacrifices like that to keep your bills under control and then you get a $493.95 bill... (I'm) not putting up with it," she said.

She said the company told her the reason for the jump was because the market has changed. But after checking with other competitors, De La O said that's not the case.

She is now considering switching to a different company once her yearly contract is up. She also says she wants others, like her, to not be taken advantage of.

ABC-7 reached out to ServiGas to find out why there was a sudden jump. We also wanted to find out why neighbors like De La O didn't get a warning an increase was coming.

ServiGas emailed ABC-7 the following statement:

"There are many factors that influence a customer's pricing. Without knowing the specifics for these customers, we can state that the price variation could be related to a number of factors, including: change in usage (volume), expiration of a pricing plan, timing of delivery (summer propane is generally priced lower), frequency of delivery, special sales and marketing promotions (to sign up, renew or place an order); ownership of tank (customer-owned or ServiGas); and more.  We encourage all our customers to consider a pricing plan. AmeriGas offers the best variety of options, with something for every customer. These plans generally provide a fixed price that protects the customer against market fluctuations. This is the best way to guarantee prices will remain consistent, helping customers to manage their energy budgets."

ServiGas added they take any and all complaints seriously and work with the customer and any third party to resolve any concerns customers may have. 

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