Charged $100 for a gas “sniffer”? Come on, Ferrellgas

When Rosemarie Dagostino calls Ferrellgas about a possible leak, she doesn’t expect it will cost her $100. But it does. Can that charge be undone?

Question: I recently smelled gas in the stairwell of my condo in Wisconsin. I called the gas company, Ferrellgas, and a technician came to our condo and walked through it with a “sniffer” wand.

The technician said a $100 fee would be charged if a problem was discovered with an appliance in my unit. It was unclear whether they’d fix it or just tell me I’d have to find someone to fix it and then I’d be charged. That was the only mention of a charge.
The inspector told me there there was no leak.

I continued to smell gas. The technician said his tool was not “the most sophisticated” and that if I still had a problem, I should call back for a second check with a better tool. I was told a second time that it is $200 for someone to come out on an emergency ticket.

I’ve been charged $100 for the initial inspection. I’m confused about the difference between an outside visit, an inside visit and an emergency.

Can you help? — Rosemarie Dagostino, Oak Park, Ill.

Answer: Ferrellgas clearly discloses all of these fees in the fine print of its customer agreement. And when I say “fine” print, I mean fine print.

If you don’t believe me, click on the link. Now, where are my reading glasses?

There’s a little more in its frequently asked questions section, but not to the detail you want. The only thing that rings true is that the company reserves the right to charge up to and including the maximum fees shown in the current charges section of the agreement, and that the fees are set by the company.

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In other words, even if you’d done your research, chances are you wouldn’t have understood any of Ferrellgas’ fees and charges.

I contacted the company on your behalf. A representative called you and explained that the first charge was for “labor” and the second charge of $200 would have been applied any time Ferrellgas orders an emergency ticket for checking a gas smell that is in someone’s home.

However, if the problem is with an outside tank, meter or regulator, there would be no charge. But if a technician has to come inside to check any appliance, it’ll cost you. That’s a contrast to your gas company in Illinois, which checks leaks at no charge.

If nothing else, your case underscores the fact that a customer’s definition of clear disclosure can be a little different from a company’s. And guess who is right? You are, of course.

A Ferrellgas representative responded to our request as well, and although he would not share any details of your case, he verified that everything had been explained to you, to your apparent satisfaction. Ferrellgas also waived the $100 labor fee for your inspection.

Should Ferrellgas have refunded the fees?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at Read more of Christopher's articles here.

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