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Price Gouging Investigation Continues

September 24th, 2008 by Mike Vasilinda

Records from 16 gas suppliers are starting to show up at the state capitol after being subpoenaed by the state when prices jumped dramatically as Hurricane Ike approached the US coast. Gas in some stations jumped a dollar fifty overnight. But as Mike Vasilinda tells us, the state isnt holding out a lot of hope that many will be prosecuted.

The phones have all but stopped ringing with price gouging complaint at two consumer hot lines

Operator And does she have her receipt still?

But not before 15 thousand people called and more than 5 thousand complaints were made. Even as gas prices come down, many motorists like Kima Williams believe they got taken.

I do think a lot of people might have done some things like change prices early, says Williams

Connie Humphrey, a retiree, agrees People try to make a killing…in a hurry.

While it is still early, the initial indication is that retailers were just passing on the higher prices that there were paying suppliers.

10 of 16 oil suppliers still have not provided sales records to the state and have asked for an extension. Agriculture and Consumer Services spokesman Terry McElroy says one they are in, they will be thoroughly examined. If the oil companies…if there terminal operations, if they didnt incur any increased costs merely because a hurricane came ashore, its Commissioner Bronsons position that they can not hike their wholesale prices.

Attorney General Bill McCollum says if there are any successful cases for price gouging, they will likely be against suppliers, not stations. I think we do have a basis for doing it, but thats never been tested. Well have to wind up and see if that happens or not.

Past experience has shown that proving price gouging are difficult. After Katrina in 2005, just 2 companies were charged with overcharging.

Price gouging convictions carry a maximum $25,000 dollar a day penalty, which some say is too little to stop the practice.

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