Keeping track of home oil bills

August 28, 2008 3:53:11 PM PDT
With heating oil prices soaring this winter, companies have come up with a new way to share information about customers and homeowners who fall behind paying their bills will have harder time buying oil from another company without paying for the fuel first.It is a brilliant way for oil companies to stay afloat and keep from passing on an enormous expense to consumers. Larry Smith, a consumer, himself was fed up with increasing costs of his home heating oil and he learned it was because of deadbeats who never paid their bills, then moved from company to company. So Larry created this software called Oil-Well.

"So an oil dealer can look up a customer or prospective customer and immediately see if they owe another dealer money," said Smith.

It works just like a credit reporting agency only with oil, and if your bill is more than 90 days past due an oil company looking to take you on will see this and opt not to. They say they have no choice. Already this season soaring prices will have the average homeowner paying $6,000. Instead, only $2,500 to heat a home with oil and that means record numbers will be late with their bills, crippling business.

"I would say that it's about 30 to 35 percent this year, that are over the 90 day column, as it would've been 15 to 20 percent last year," said Thomas Torre.

The oil companies then have to borrow money to make up for it and the cost of that goes back to the customer.

Still the concept of "Oil Well' is troubling to some customers who are barely making ends meet. Right now they're afraid that if they do fall just a big behind on their oil bills, they will be left in the cold.

And the biggest concern is for low-income tenants whose landlords don't pay the oil bill.

The oil companies are urging low income customers to give them a call ahead of time, so a payment plan can be ironed out. Also, you can call 311 to see if you're eligible for assistance, otherwise as companies sign on with Oil-Well those customers trying to be slick, may have a very tough time.

For more information on the Oil Wells, go to

STORY BY: Eyewitness News reporter Stacey Sager

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