Part III Administrative Complaint
The FTC issued an administrative complaint against Ferrellgas Partners, L.P and Ferrellgas, L.P. (doing business as Blue Rhino) and UGI Corporation and AmeriGas Partners, L.P. (doing business as AmeriGas Cylinder Exchange), alleging that they illegally agreed on reducing the amount of propane in their tanks sold to a key customer. The complaint alleges that, together, Blue Rhino and AmeriGas controlled approximately 80 percent of the market for wholesale propane exchange tanks in the United States. In 2008, Blue Rhino and AmeriGas each decided to implement a price increase by reducing the amount of propane in their exchange tanks from 17 pounds to 15 pounds, without a corresponding reduction in the wholesale price. On 10/31/14, AmeriGas and Blue Rhino agreed to settle FTC charges of restraining competition. Faced with resistance from Walmart, the two companies colluded by secretly agreeing to coordinate their negotiations with Walmart in order to push it to accept the reduction. The consent agreements prohibit the companies from soliciting, offering, participating in, or entering or attempting to enter into any type of agreement with any competitor in the propane exchange business to raise, fix, maintain, or stabilize the prices or price levels of propane exchange tanks through any means – including modifying the fill level contained in propane tanks or coordinating communications to customers. The companies also are prohibited from sharing sensitive non-public business information with competitors except in narrowly defined circumstances.