Airgas USA, LLC has been hit with a proposed class action lawsuit over its alleged practice of adding “fuel surcharges” to customers’ bills and subjecting proposed class members to significant price hikes not tied to actual business costs.
The case alleges that Airgas, described in the complaint as “one of the largest suppliers of gases in the United States,” systematically overcharges customers for its products. The plaintiff company, an oral surgery firm in South Carolina, says it contracts with the defendant to provide oxygen and nitrous oxide for a fixed price. Tacked on to that price, the suit claims, are “fuel surcharges” that Airgas represents as meant to cover increased fuel costs for delivery.
In truth, however, the fuel surcharges do not fluctuate in connection with Airgas’s expenses, according to the lawsuit. Moreover, the company also assesses on top of its base price a separate “delivery fee” that the plaintiff says should cover such costs. All told, the complaint contends that while the so-called fuel surcharge “appears to be related to fuel costs,” it is merely passed through to Airgas as profit and is wholly unrelated to the actual cost of delivering gas to customers. From the complaint:
“Airgas uses the fuel surcharge simply to generate extra profit at its customers’ expense, all the while deceiving customers into believing that the fee is a legitimate charge directly related to actual increased fuel costs it incurs, which it falsely claims it cannot control.”
Further, the lawsuit asserts that Airgas imposes “significant price increases” on customers without providing the contractually mandated 30-day notice of such changes. These price hikes, the case argues, are not tied to any “cost increases” as the defendant represents, and are merely another facet of the company’s alleged scheme to overcharge customers. According to the plaintiff, despite being told that Airgas’s prices are fixed, customers end up paying the company as much as 12 percent more than they agreed upon in their contracts with Airgas due to its “deceptive and unfair” price increases.
The defendant’s alleged scheme has allowed Airgas to “glean millions of dollars of unearned profit from its customers,” all the while representing that the extra costs are necessary and legitimate, the lawsuit alleges.