- 01 Nov
When the Attorney General knocks
CSP reports that the Texas Attorney General has accused more than 100 fuel retailers of price gouging during the state of disaster declared for Hurricane Harvey. The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA) prohibits anyone from taking advantage of a disaster declared by the governor and selling or leasing fuel or other necessities for “excessive or exorbitant prices”. The law authorizes the attorney general to sue offenders for price gouging and seek refunds for consumers, as well as to enforce civil penalties of up to $20,000 per violation. There are also extra fines of up to $250,000 for incidents involving a consumer who is 65 years or older.
Other states have similar laws:
- In Georgia, gas stations must charge the same price they did immediately before the state of emergency unless there’s “an increase in cost of the goods or services to the person selling the goods or services or an increase in the cost of transporting the goods or services into the area.”
- In West Virginia, according to the Attorney General, state law says “you take the date of the emergency declaration, go back 10 days, and whatever the price was then, you can raise it 10% before we get interested.”
- In Virginia, the law states that businesses can be charged with price gouging if they charge a price that is “unconscionable” when compared to the average price of the same product during the emergency declaration. The term “unconscionable” is not defined.
- In New Jersey, raising fuel prices multiple times in one day is illegal, and could result in fines of $1500 each. The State Office of Weights and Measures also investigates fuel retailers who raise prices more than 10%, what New Jersey calls price gouging.
Fuel Pricing solutions such as PriceAdvantage can help in situations like these in three ways:
- Keep control of fuel price changes at Headquarters. The Fuel Price Management solution PriceAdvantage can be configured to remove the Store Manager from the fuel price change process, and initiate all fuel price changes only at headquarters. This means no unauthorized fuel price changes starting at the store.
- Set price change thresholds. PriceAdvantage allows price changes to be kept below the set threshold, meaning a price change can never be more than the set percentage over the current price. In this case, if the threshold is set to 9%, any price change of more than 9% would be rejected as unauthorized.
- Reduce audit time. PriceAdvantage can shorten a fuels price audit from days spent tracking down stacks of spreadsheets, to a few minutes needed to run a built-in fuel pricing history report. The PriceAdvantage solution also provides a complete audit trail of retail site and competitor fuel prices, cost, and margin (both actual and replacement), on a daily basis. This makes it quick to respond to auditors who make accusations of fuel price gouging.
These are situations when a PriceAdvantage system pays for itself many times over.