- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

HUDSON, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire’s attorney general is closely monitoring a lawsuit filed by a major supplier of home heating oil against a dealer who supplies about 30,000 customers with fuel to be sure the dealer can fulfill its obligations.

Senior Assistant Attorney General James Boffetti said Tuesday that he will meet next week with lawyers for Hudson-based Fred Fuller Oil, in light of a lawsuit filed by Sprague Energy. The company claims Fuller owes $4.7 million in unpaid bills and is seeking to seize Fuller’s delivery trucks and other assets.

Boffetti said he wants to assure that consumers who entered pre-buy contracts and prepaid for fuel won’t be left with empty tanks this winter.

Fuller last year was plagued by fuel delivery problems. The company’s lawyer did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Boffetti said that Attorney General Joseph Foster called him four times Tuesday for information and updates on the situation.

“This is a big deal because of the number of people who rely on Fuller oil,” Boffetti said.

Boffetti said Fuller, like many other oil dealers, secures his pre-buy contracts with written agreements with suppliers such as Sprague. Boffetti is concerned whether those agreements will be honored if Fuller is delinquent on payments for past oil purchased.

“We have to be convinced he can fulfill his obligations to those customers,” Boffetti said of residents, schools and other customers who have paid part or all of this winter’s fuel costs in advance.

“It’s ultimately up to Mr. Fuller to provide information about how he’s going to respond to this lawsuit, then we have to gauge our options on what we can do to protect consumers,” said Boffetti, who said some of those options could involve the pursuit of civil or criminal sanctions and seeking court-ordered relief.

Fuller’s problems last winter prompted lawmakers to draft new rules for heating fuel retailers. The law, which Gov. Maggie Hassan signed into law last month, prohibits dealers from advertising or soliciting pre-buy contracts before May 1. The law previously permitted those offers any time after Jan. 1.

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