Community Oil Buying Scheme Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why is it changing?

Community Lincs is a charity and it is becoming increasingly difficult to secure funding to maintain the work that we do. Currently Community Lincs supports the oil buying scheme by picking up the expenses that are not covered by the annual membership fees. From 1st October 2016 it will not be possible for Community Lincs to carry on supporting the project in this way. It is therefore essential that the scheme is as efficient as possible and able to generate enough income to be sustainable as an independent project.

The current system is very time consuming to administer and also open to occasional errors. The plan is to introduce a system where members manage their own information and orders. The project officer can then spend more time marketing the scheme to increase the membership. More members = more oil ordered = ability to negotiate a better price = everyone wins.

2. Who will I be dealing with?

Community Lincs has been working with some clever people at eSmartMetrics, who have developed some fantastic technology to help us run our oil buying scheme more efficiently. Operating as olive, in conjunction with Community Lincs, they manage a secure website to allow you to take control of your details and your orders. You will be ordering oil and making payment for the oil through the olive system.

Community Lincs will still be responsible for the administration of the oil buying scheme so you can contact the Administrator by email at communitybuying@communitylincs.com or by calling 01529 301980

3. Who and what is ‘olive’?

olive is a service from local company eSmartMetrics Limited. olive is working with Community Lincs to improve the efficiency of its oil buying scheme and has developed an online system for members of the Lincolnshire Community Oil Buying Scheme.

olive also offer an oil Smart Meter service which will help users manage and understand their oil usage. More information is available via our oil website page at http://communitylincs.com/individuals/saving-money/bulk-oil-buying/

4. How will the new scheme work?

All you need to do is register on the new website by entering your name, address, phone number(s), email address, comments about your tank location or access requirements and create a password.

If you forget your password, just click on the button to reset your password and a temporary password will be emailed to you instantly. You will then need to go into your Account details to reset yourself a new password for future use. Please keep a note of this in a safe place. If you use more than one email address, make sure you use the email address that you put in when you first registered with the website.

5. Once I’ve registered, how do I order oil?

Once you have an account you can log in at any time to order oil. Simply select the product you require (Kerosene 28, with or without additive) and add any notes that may be relevant to that particular order, i.e. if you are going to be away, changes to access, etc. Oil order deadlines will continue to be once a month. You will need to register card payment details or direct debit instructions either at registration or prior to making your first order.

When you place an order you will need to be as accurate as possible with your order quantity as you will only be able to order a set number of litres (minimum order quantity 500 litres). A top up will no longer be available. You will need to pay for this oil before it is delivered. See the point 20 below for more details.

6. Why isn’t there the option to get my tank ‘topped up’ anymore?

Increasingly, oil companies cannot offer the service to top up people’s oil tanks. This is generally because they have a number of deliveries to make and a set amount of oil in their delivery tankers. If the amount of oil required to top up tanks is greater than the anticipated quantity they then do not have enough oil to deliver to everyone on their route that day. This is less efficient for the oil company and disappointing for the customer who did not receive the oil they were expecting

As you will be paying for your oil order in advance it is important that you know the amount of money that will be charged to your debit/credit card or direct debit. If more or less oil is delivered that you have paid for, then an additional payment or credit transaction will take place at a later date.

7. What if I don’t have access to the internet?

Currently about 20% of members do not have access to the internet for one reason or another. If you are not able to use the new web based system yourself please continue to liaise with the Administrator who will be only too pleased to accept orders and answer any queries and register for the scheme on your behalf.

8. Why are you getting rid of the annual membership fee?

The main reason Community Lincs started the oil buying scheme was to help people, especially the vulnerable, who rely on heating oil. Over the last few years heating oil has been painfully expensive, so by ordering collectively we have the ability to negotiate for a much more competitive price for the benefit of all our members. The scheme is open to everyone and the more members there are the more negotiating power we have each month.

The original system was based on a £20 membership fee. This means that if you order 1000 litres of fuel a year you are paying more per litre for your membership than someone that orders 2500 litres. This is not very equitable.

Some members also reported that it was inconvenient to send in a cheque or make an internet payment for their membership fee each year. We aim to make the scheme as efficient as possible for everyone involved. It takes a great deal of time to process the membership and renewal payments which increases staff costs. The more efficient we can be the better.

9. What about the membership fee I have already paid for this year?

Most of you will have renewed your membership within the last 12 months. Once you register on the new website you will receive a discount, calculated as a pro rata proportion of your outstanding membership fee. You will then be able to apply this as a discount code against your first oil order through the new system.

10. How will the scheme pay for itself now?

Instead of taking an annual membership fee we will be adding a small levy to the oil order each month. Due to the volumes of oil we are purchasing you will still be getting your oil cheaper than if you were to buy it by yourself.

11. Will the new scheme cost me more?

It depends. The £20 annual membership fee meant that everyone paid the same, no matter how much oil they ordered each year. This is not very equitable as it means those people using less oil pay more per litre for their membership than those ordering larger quantities of oil each year. So, if you only order small quantities you will be paying less than you were with the £20 annual membership. But be assured, everyone will be saving money when ordering oil through our Community Oil Buying scheme as we have the power of bulk buying. And the more efficient we can make the process for Community Lincs and the oil companies, the greater savings we would hope to achieve and pass on to our members.

12. If you are a charity, why do we have to pay for the scheme?

Although we are a charity, we rely on paid staff to carry out the work we do. We do use the services of volunteers in some areas of our work, but in general we have staff and office costs to pay. Our staff are professional, efficient, reliable and hard-working and to keep them happy we have to pay them! We are non-profit making and find it increasingly difficult to source funds to enable to us to carry out our work. So, we have to make the oil buying scheme pay for itself.

13. Why can’t I know what the price is before I place my order?

Before we can negotiate with the oil suppliers, we need to know the total number of litres we are ordering and how many delivery drops that is made up of. The suppliers cannot give us a price until they know what they are quoting for. You can be assured that the price we achieve will be extremely competitive and excellent value. If you are not happy with the price we are achieving then you can leave the scheme at any time. Equally you can re-join the scheme at any time if you change your mind.

14. How do I know if I am getting the best price?

We cannot tell you exactly how much money you will save by using our scheme as we cannot know how much you would have paid for your oil if you ordered it direct from a local supplier. Some people are happy to ring round various suppliers and negotiate a price for themselves so they have the flexibility of ordering oil when they want it and have control over who supplies it and at what price. That’s fine if that’s what you want to do. If you would rather just have peace of mind that you are getting the best price and be organised enough to know the order deadline dates to make sure you order in good time then this scheme really will save you money and hassle.

15. What if I miss the order deadline?

Previously there has been some flexibility if an order has come in after the 12 noon deadline. However, the new system will ‘close’ at 12 noon on the deadline day and it will not be possible to add your order after that time.

16. How will I know who will deliver my oil?

Once the price negotiation has taken place and an agreement has been made with the oil supplier you will receive an email/phone call to advise you of the supplier, price, when your payment will be taken and any other relevant information. Contact information will also be provided should you have any queries.

17. I have a local coordinator, should I still deal with them or should I go direct to the website?

If you can use the website yourself, then it makes sense to manage your account directly. However, you can liaise directly with the oil scheme administrator at Community Lincs on 01529 301980.

18. What should I do if my internet is down and I cannot get to the website to make my order?

Don’t panic! Just phone Community Lincs and they will be able to access your account on the website to make the order on your behalf.

19. Who will I be placing my order with?

Your order will be taken by eSmartMetrics Limited, who will be acting on Community Lincs’ behalf and placing the group order with the winning oil supplier. By grouping together payments and maximising efficiencies for both Community Lincs and the oil supplier we hope to maximise the savings available to our members.

20. How will I pay for my heating oil?

Payment by members is online by credit/debit card through the secure olive/Community Linc's website. All major debit and credit cards are accepted.

There is no charge for debit card use, but there is a fee of 2% for credit cards.

You will be asked to enter your card details as part of your account registration or as part of your first online order. From 1st October 2016 it will only be possible to place an order once a valid payment card has been stored with Paymentsense for your account. Payment will automatically be taken from your chosen card 24 hours after we have confirmed the negotiated oil price to you, giving you time to change your mind.

Alternatively, you can set up a direct debit, electronically, from your chosen account.

21. Why can’t I continue to pay the oil supplier direct?

Currently, Community Lincs negotiates the price on your behalf and you pay the supplier. By paying through our new website for your oil we can then pay the oil company one payment for all of the oil orders. This means they can optimise their route planning and they don’t have to spend time taking payments from every member. This increased efficiency will enable us to negotiate a better price.

22. How secure are my card details?

Members can safely enter payment card details via the website and secure PCI DSS-compliant Payment Provider, which encrypts all submitted information.

To ensure the highest possible level of online payment security, all payments are secured with:

  • Fully PCI Compliant secure servers
  • Security Code (CV2) Checks

With our online Payment Provider you’re using one of the most secure online payment services currently available. They process millions of card transactions every year for online businesses and their customers.

All payment card details are held on the secure Payment Provider’s servers. Olive/Community Linc's does not and cannot store card details on the site.

23. Can I pay by cheque?

We are no longer able to accept payment by cheque. You can however set up a direct debit, and the oil payment will be taken automatically from your chosen account.

24. Do you offer a monthly payment scheme?

Not at the moment, but we are looking to offer this option in the future.

25. I usually pay the delivery driver cash or cheque. Can I continue to do this?

No, I’m afraid this is not possible. The oil companies do not generally accept this form of payment these days either, although some of them make exceptions for long standing customers.

These days most internet users buy goods and/or services on the internet using their credit or debit card. The oil buying website will be no different. Please see the secure payment point above for more details on how this service will work.

26. What if the address of the property I want the oil to go to is different to my home address?

You should register the address you want the oil to be delivered to - this does not have to be your home address. We will look to add multiple properties to a single account in the future.

27. Is this scheme only for domestic oil users?

No, anyone that uses oil can join the Community Oil Buying Scheme in Lincolnshire. Community Buildings (village halls, schools, churches, sports clubs and scout huts included) can order their oil, but you need to be clear about the type of heating oil you require (28 or 35 second burn) and be able to pay by card on the internet (please contact us if you have any queries with this). Businesses can also join, but please be aware that commercial VAT rates (at 20%) may be applied.

28. Do you use local oil suppliers?

All the suppliers that we negotiate with will deliver across the whole of Lincolnshire, even though some of them may send their delivery vehicles in from outside the county.

If you feel strongly about only using local companies, then you may wish to contact your chosen supplier directly. We choose to use businesses in the region that can provide a good service at the best price.

29. I’m worried about the carbon footprint of using an oil supplier from outside the county.

We have asked all the oil suppliers we use for their Environmental Policy so we can be assured that they are doing their bit to keep carbon emissions as low as possible. By receiving such a large order at one time, the oil companies can plan their delivery routes to be as efficient as possible, saving fuel and therefore reducing emissions. If you would like to see a copy of any of the policies, please contact us.

30. What if I’m not happy about any of the changes?

If you’re not happy then please let us know and we will try our best to work things out. The new system may not suit everyone, but we hope that it will work well for the majority and even bring in more new members. If we do not make the changes we cannot guarantee the future of the scheme. Please let us have your feedback on the new scheme to help us with future development.

Have you got any other questions?

If yes, please telephone 01529 301980 or email communitybuying@communitylincs.com