Monday, September 15, 2008

Gas Price Cheating - Too High?

Officials Going After Gas Selling Offenders

LABELLE, FL. -- Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson has announced that he is issuing subpoenas for financial information from 16 major oil terminals in Florida in connection with an ongoing investigation of gasoline price spikes associated with Hurricane Ike.

The subpoenas are scheduled to be hand delivered to the terminals on Tuesday, and they are seeking records to determine whether any of them illegally increased the wholesale prices that  were passed on to retail gas stations and ultimately their customers.  The subpoenas call for the records to be provided to Bronson's office in seven days.

"It's critical that we go to the source," Bronson said.  "A number of gas stations are claiming that they are only passing on increases that they have had to pay, so it is vital to examine where these price increases originated." 

Under state law, it is unlawful to charge excessive prices for essential items -- including gasoline, water, ice, lumber, batteries and shelter -- following the declaration of a state of emergency unless the increases in the amount charged are attributable to additional costs incurred by those supplying the items.

Individuals or businesses found to have engaged in price-gouging face fines up to $1,000 per violation, or up to a maximum fine of $25,000 a day.

Meanwhile, more than 2,300 price-gouging calls were received by Bronson's office during the last three days, and the volume of calls remains heavy.

Consumers who have been the victims of price-gouging or have witnessed such activity are encouraged to call Bronson's toll-free hotline at 1-800-HELPFLA (1-800-435-7352).

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