Home Heating Oil Delivery Company Goes Bankrupt: Pre-Paid Customers Lose Their Money

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Call it the worst case scenario for home heating oil customers in Midcoast Maine who had pre-paid delivery contracts with Thibeault Energy.

After 84 years in the business Thibeault Energy announced that “due to circumstances out of their control“, the company was closed for business (call them yourself 207-729-3337). Not only are potentially hundreds of pre-paid customers going to lose the money they have already pre-paid to the company (my father-in-law is out over $1000), the shutdown happened during one of the coldest weeks in recent history (It was -12 degrees Fahrenheit in Brunswick the morning the company announced closing).

A Thibeault Energy delivery truck sits idle along Pleasant Street in Brunswick, ME. -Photo Thibeault Energy

Many residents have woken up over the last week to find that their furnaces didn’t have any fuel left in their tank. Callers to Thibeault Energy’s customer service line were told (as late as Friday 1/21/2011) there were “disruptions” to their oil supplies and that they were slowly resuming delivery service to local customers.

Customers are outraged and feel lied to. Speculation has mounted over the cause of the closing and presumed bankruptcy, but the company has clearly not accepted any responsibility for their actions.

Circumstances beyond their control?Residents of the area have commented extensively about the Thibeault Family’s affinity for expensive automobiles and luxury recreational vehicles. The value of these vehicles alone could be used to “capitalize” a substantial round of oil deliveries. It really is a shame that the company had to lie to its customers (and potentially to their employees) right up until the very end while they were consulting with lawyers to maximize the protection of their own assets.

We’re not talking about pre-paid gift cards to Starbucks here…heating oil is a basic necessity of life for residents in the State of Maine and the residents of the Greater Brunswick, ME Area trusted Thibeault Energy to deliver. If nothing else, Thibeault should have been honest with their customers that it could potentially have disruptions in their ability to deliver oil. There had to have been warning signs recognized by the company’s “management”, these circumstances just don’t happen overnight.

Instead, homeowners (some elderly and/or sick) woke up in cold homes without any warning or opportunity to seek fuel from an alternate source.  With limited resources, some of these families are scrambling to find the resources to pay for another tank of fuel to warm their homes.

The Maine Attorney General’s office is investigating the closure.  One can only hope the Thibeault Family will step up and provide answers to the friends and neighbors they have served for 84 years, and any misdeeds will be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

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