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“Buyers Up” Keeps Homes Warm, Wallets Full

Nov. 20, 2000

“Buyers Up” Keeps Homes Warm, Wallets Full

Program Offers Relief for Consumers Hit by High Fuel Prices

WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the first signs of winter beginning to sweep across the country, and with forecasters calling for a season of unpredictable weather and cold snaps, the demand for home heating oil soon will be at a premium.

Fortunately, Washington, D.C. metropolitan area residents don t have to pay the same high prices as most American consumers this winter. That s because Buyers Up, a program that provides discount rates on heating oil to its members in the D.C. area, can help people who become members significantly reduce their home heating oil bills.

Buyers Up benefits all of its members, said Lane Brooks, manager of the program. “Customers can enjoy the comfort of a well-heated home without having to worry about shopping around for new rates every time the weather gets cold.”

The program was started in 1983 to help consumers pool their buying power and save money on home heating oil. It is operated by Public Citizen, a non-profit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971.

The program acts as an agent for more than 5,000 members to negotiate with local oil suppliers to get premium rates. Although prices vary and change over time, members generally pay between 5 and 25 cents per gallon less than average retail prices. For homeowners with average fuel use, that adds up to a savings of about $100 per year.

This is particularly important in light of the recent decision by OPEC not to increase oil supplies through the end of this year. Although oil prices have fallen slightly since an alarming spike in the early autumn, OPEC s decision to maintain the current supply rate is a bad omen in light of an already tight oil market. Oil prices, currently marked at over $34 a barrel, could rise to as high as $40 a barrel this winter, wreaking havoc on the budgets of American consumers.

Consumers can alleviate their concerns about the price of their home heating oil this winter by taking advantage of the benefits offered by Buyers Up. After joining, members are assigned a supplier whom they call for oil. The program also works with local service companies so that its members can receive oil burner maintenance, emergency service and air conditioning service. Members also receive Buyers Up News, a newsletter that keeps track of the oil industry and provides helpful hints for using energy more efficiently.

In addition to the District, the program is offered in Alexandria and all or parts of Arlington, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun and Prince William counties in Virginia, and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George s and St. Mary s counties in Maryland.

A first-time membership costs just $5 for the first year. Regular membership renewals are $20 annually, while seniors over 65 and students pay only $15. 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. (Please click here for updated membership information.)

To take advantage of the savings provided by Buyers Up, contact (202) 588-1000, (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, NW, Washington, DC 20009.