immediate release --September 12, 2001.
Contact Bob Brammer, 515-281-6699
General's Office Tells Gas
Sellers to Avoid Exorbitant Prices
statement of the Attorney General's Office, Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001:
We consider it an
unfair practice if sellers of gasoline take advantage of the tragic situation
by raising gas prices exorbitantly and without justification. Our investigation
and action starting yesterday suggests that a small percentage of retailers
raised prices sharply yesterday, but that prices mostly have returned
to near-normal levels.
If consumers believe
they were the victims of unjustified high prices, we encourage them to
go back to retailers and ask for a refund. We ask consumers to contact
our office if they seek a refund and are denied.
We are investigating
the situation and considering legal action. We are investigating in cooperation
with the Iowa DNR and others who are providing information on gas pricing,
including the DOT, the Iowa Department of Agriculture, and in some cases
local law enforcement officials. Many citizens also are providing information
on price increases at certain stations in some communities.
It is unjustified,
unconscionable and unacceptable for sellers to raise their prices to exorbitant
levels in the wake of the attacks. This could be an unfair practice and
a violation of the Iowa Consumer Fraud Act with potential civil penalties
up to $40,000 per violation. As the Petroleum Marketers of Iowa have noted,
"there is no indication that wholesale prices have increased dramatically,"
so there is no justification for retail prices to increase exorbitantly.
Our office also encourages
citizens to maintain their confidence that Iowa's gasoline situation is
quickly returning near to normal. (The DNR and other experts have noted,
however, that pre-attack supplies have been tight for some time, mostly
as a result of refinery closings and other factors.) Most important, there
is no interruption of supply, no new shortage, and no disruption in pipelines
or other transport. Just as in normal times, there is no need to "gas
up" unless your tank is running low, and certainly no need to wait
in gas lines.
Second, we believe
gas pricing is returning to near normal. It was a small minority of sellers
who raised their prices yesterday, and we believe those seem to have been
lowered to typical levels. Most stations are posting typical prices again.
We believe the vast majority of Iowa retailers did not and are not price
gouging or seeking to unfairly take advantage of this situation. We think
Iowa is doing its part to return to normalcy in terms of gas pricing.
Our top objective
has been to stabilize the situation, reassure Iowans, and send a strong
message that price gouging will not be allowed. Consumer Protection investigators
have been calling many gasoline retailers around the state or making visits
to follow up on consumer inquiries and information.
We also have received
several reports of retailers offering refunds to customers who bought
gas at high prices. We encourage customers to return to stations and ask
about such refunds. We also have heard of stations making donations to
charity in lieu of being able to identify persons who paid very high prices
before prices dropped..
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