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Monday, September 26, 2005

New Jersey sues oil companies, gas stations, alleging price-gouging

New Jersey breaks the ice: State sues oil companies, gas stations, alleging price-gouging.
New Jersey filed suit against three oil companies and several independent gas station owners Monday, charging them with gouging motorists during Hurricane Katrina.

The lawsuits, filed in Mercer County Superior Court, charge Hess, Motiva Shell and Sunoco with artificially inflating gas prices and for increasing prices more than the once-a-day legal limit. Independent gas station operators selling Hess, Shell, Sunoco and Citgo brands were also sued.

Specifically, the defendants are charged with violating the state's motor fuels and consumer fraud acts through their pricing practices.
Motiva Shell is a partnership between Shell and Saudi Oil.

I am somewhat amused by the allegations of station owners ripping off their customers:
The complaint also alleges that the defendants engaged in "unconscionable practices," which Harvey said included charging motorists' credit cards for more gasoline than they received. He said the suit seeks restitution for customers who were overcharged.

Another bogus practice was to charge drivers for higher octane gas while filling their tanks with lower octane fuel, Harvey said.
Amused only because New Jersey is one of the two states (along with Oregon) where it is illegal to pump your own fuel and thus be absolutely certain what grade and amount are put into your tank. Heck, in most places you can even get a receipt from the pump and can immediately double check your purchase. An explanation for the New Jersey law is not really too complimentary to the residents of the state:
The ban on self-service gas stations is a highly combustible issue and makes for some heated debates. New Jersey passed the law making it illegal to pump your own gas in 1949. At the time, legislators felt it was too dangerous to have untrained people dispensing such a flammable liquid.

That may have been sensible at the time, but pumping gas is much safer today, and some motorists feel the ban is outdated and needs to go. Opponents of the law argue that removing it would lower the cost of gas and make refueling much quicker and more convenient. Proponents of the ban argue that it creates jobs and customers like full service.
You might add to the mix that it makes it easier for station operator or his minions to cheat you. Not that it has ever happened in New Jersey.

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