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“Buyers Up” Heating Oil Collective Combats High Winter Heating Charges

Jan. 12, 2004

“Buyers Up” Heating Oil Collective Combats High Winter Heating Charges

Icy Weather, Low Oil Inventories Could Lead to Higher Heating Oil Prices, Government Predicts

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen is offering consumers a way to combat the high heating oil prices likely to come from this winter’s bitter weather and low oil inventories.

As icy winds swept the mid-Atlantic region last week, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that crude oil inventories had dropped to their lowest level since 1975 and raised its forecasts of this year’s heating oil costs. Although there is not a shortage currently, industry analysts quoted in news reports said that a long cold snap could deplete heating oil supplies and send prices soaring.

Increased demand in the improving economy and lowered supplies from OPEC are behind the drop in oil inventories. Buyers Up, a collective heating oil purchase program, is a way for Washington, D.C.-area residents to ensure that they’re paying the lowest prices possible in the volatile market. When there is a shortage of oil, retailers often compound the problem by increasing their mark-up. Buyers Up contractors aren’t allowed to do that, keeping the prices lower for Buyers Up members.

Public Citizen has managed the Buyers Up program since 1983. It is designed to help consumers combine resources and find the cheapest prices for heating oil. It now acts as an agent for more than 4,000 members, negotiating prices on their behalf with local oil suppliers.

To help reduce time and money spent on shopping around every time the tank is empty, new members are assigned a supplier to call for their affordably priced oil supply.

“Prices vary throughout the winter, but our members can expect to save an average of $100 per year,” said Bill Wilson, manager of the Buyers Up program. “That’s a significant chunk of change, and members can rest assured that they’re getting a great deal.”

A Buyers Up membership costs $20 per year. Seniors over 65 and students pay just $15 to join. Individuals who are certified by state low-income energy assistance programs can enroll for free. Dues cover membership from Oct.1 through Sept. 30, but enrollment is accepted at any time.

“The Buyers Up office is always ready to answer any questions or concerns about the price of oil on a particular day,” Wilson said.

In addition to being available in the District, the program is offered in Alexandria and all or parts of Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun and Prince William counties in Virginia. In Maryland, consumers in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties can participate. Schools, churches, businesses and non-profit associations can also join the program.

To take advantage of the savings provided by Buyers Up, contact (202) 588-7780 or 1-800-289-3787, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Buyers Up is located at 1600 20th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20009.