Around 200,000 UK homes use liquid petroleum gas (or LPG) to heat their homes. LPG can be used to fuel gas central heating systems and gas cooking appliances if you are off the mains gas grid. It's delivered to homes by road - but recently there have been hold ups with supply.
We've heard first-hand from many people who have experienced severe delays to their LPG supply, leaving some of them without gas at all.
Here, we explain what has caused the problems, share the impact on customers and outline what steps you can take if you’ve been left waiting for your LPG too.
Typically, homes with LPG tanks will keep an eye on how much they've got left and, when they're running low, order more to be delivered. Suppliers deliver this by tankers. Recently, people have been finding that incredibly long wait times mean they've been running out of LPG before their order arrives.
Brexit, Covid-19 and supply shortages (or a combination of all three) have been blamed for some of the delays or problems experienced by LPG customers over the last two years.
Some people in off-grid homes were left without central heating during the winter weather earlier in 2022. Suppliers have said coronavirus, delivery driver shortages and post-Brexit admin have led to the extensive wait times.
Flogas published on its website in February citing ‘the pressures of peak seasonal demand, driver shortages across the UK and the impact of Covid-19’ as setbacks to its delivery capacity. But it’s by no means the only LPG supplier affected.
A letter seen by Which? was sent to Calor Gas customers in February explaining demand for LPG was ‘higher than usual’ and it had a ‘backlog’ of orders to fulfil. It also cited the ‘national shortage of specialist qualified HGV drivers’ to deliver said orders and a large number of Covid-19 cases meant ‘some’ of its drivers had to self-isolate.
We’ve spotted cases of overdue LPG deliveries from customers at several suppliers in the UK. The companies' Twitter pages are littered with the complaints of customers waiting far longer than expected for their orders. Those that were happy to be included in this article were customers of Avanti Gas, Calor Gas and Flogas.
Mandy Forde, who lives on the Isle of Anglesey in North Wales, waited around eight weeks for her LPG order from Avanti Gas to arrive, despite the company’s website stating customers can expect to get their delivery within 10-15 working days of placing their order.
She called Avanti Gas to discuss the matter in March and was informed by the customer service employee she spoke to that it was experiencing problems with deliveries in her area. It was only when Mandy took to Twitter that she discovered other LPG customers have been left waiting for their deliveries across the country too.
Her elderly parents were due to visit over Easter, but the family had to cancel their bank holiday plans due to Mandy's lack of heating.
‘The lack of clarity was really worrying,' Mandy told us. 'I was petrified to use my heating for fear that the gas would run out, especially in colder weather. If I had known when the gas was going to be delivered I could have used the heating and carefully monitored my usage to make sure it lasted. But Avanti didn’t give me a timescale for my delivery, so I was left in limbo.’
Genete Hill from Suffolk received a letter from Calor Gas in March stating the LPG delivery she'd ordered earlier in the year would be late. She was still without it four weeks later.
Calor Gas’s website states that its on-demand customers should place their orders when their gas level reaches 25%, but the letter Genete received outlined that customers should get back in touch once their tank gauge reaches 10%.
When Genete’s gauge did hit the 10% mark in early April, she emailed Calor Gas but received no response. She then called its customer services line twice. Genete waited on hold for more than two hours the first time she tried to ring the company, before giving up and calling back later in the day only to be unable to get through because of the vast number of fellow customers waiting to speak to the team.
Genete’s scheduled delivery date then disappeared from her Calor Gas online account. She called the company again in mid-April and was informed by the team member on the phone that its delivery dates are only confirmed the day before they occur and that her gas would arrive shortly. They also asked Genete to get back in touch if her gas tank got below 5%.
Her order was ultimately delivered on 22 April.
‘This caused me and my family a lot of anxiety,’ she told Which?. ‘We didn’t turn on our heating on even if we got cold, and tried to avoid cooking with gas because we didn’t want to run out.’
A Flogas customer who contacted us told us they'd placed an LPG order with the company at the beginning of April and didn’t receive it for more than three weeks.
The customer, living in Norwich, called Flogas in mid-April for an update on their gas delivery. He was asked by the customer service employee he spoke with to call back should his gas tank gauge hit 10%, but still agreed to reschedule his delivery for 26 April.
The customer called Flogas again the day before his delivery was due to ensure it would indeed arrive. The team member said they couldn’t confirm whether it would or not, but promised to call back if the gas would not be coming.
He was relieved when his gas did turn up on the promised date. His ‘main concern’ while waiting for it was that he would ‘run out of gas and therefore be unable to use our heating or hot water.’
When we put our case studies to Avanti Gas, vice president Brad Steadman told us: 'The previous months have been challenging for the LPG industry. Our distribution, customer service and delivery teams have been working tirelessly to ensure that all our customers receive their LPG deliveries on time, and we value our customers and their feedback on their experience from Avanti Gas.
'We’re sorry to hear that one of our customers felt let down with the level of service that we have provided. In these challenging times for the industry we have to review the gauge readings of our customers in a fair way and prioritise those who will run out first, meaning on rare occasions, customers will receive a delivery at a lower gauge reading than they are normally used to.'
A Calor Gas spokesperson, said: ‘The LPG industry has experienced a shortage of HGV drivers who are specially trained to carry hazardous goods, and ongoing high levels of Covid-19 that continue to impact operations. This means that a backlog of orders has resulted in tank levels for some customers running lower than usual, or in a minority of cases, running out before we are able to reach them. We sincerely apologise to Ms Hill and her family for the inconvenience and anxiety caused by her recent delivery from us.’
Calor Gas added that it has ‘communicated with those customers most likely to be impacted’ by the situation to advise them of what’s going on and to monitor their gas levels.
Flogas did not respond to our request for comment.
If you’ve been left in the cold by your LPG provider, our advice is to order you next top-up well in advance of when you’ll need it. If your supplier recommends that customers place an order when their tanks read 25%, make sure you do so as soon as - or just before - it hits that mark.
Deliveries are getting through eventually, so it's important to reiterate that there’s no need to panic. However, given the timescales we’re seeing for some customers of late, it’s sensible to get your order in well ahead of when you will need your delivery.
In addition, just as you would with any other delivery issue you encounter, ensure you complain to the supplier for any undelivered goods or unsatisfactory customer service you’ve experienced. Even if your order was due to be delivered by a courier, rather that the supplier or retailer directly, your complaint should still be issued to the company as your contract is with them.
Your delivery must be made without undue delay and within 30 days from the point of purchase unless you and the company have agreed otherwise. This is stipulated by the Consumer Rights Act 2015.