September 28, 2005
Cape Girardeau, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon today announced that his office's investigation into retail gasoline prices in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina has led to legal action being taken against the owners of 10 gas stations, eight of which are in southeast Missouri. Nixon launched his investigation on Aug. 31, just two days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
"This has been one of the most comprehensive investigations ever into gas pricing data in Missouri," Nixon said today at a news conference in Cape Girardeau. "In a situation where prices were changing daily — and sometimes several times a day — we examined market data for more than 50 stations around the state over a period for 10 days before Katrina and 10 days after.
"We looked at this 20-day snapshot in time to compare the margins between how much retailers paid for the gas, and how much they charged customers for the gas," Nixon said. "That margin was the focal point of our investigation."
Nixon filed suit in Greene County Circuit Court against Express Lanes Inc., located at 2959 N. Grant in Springfield. The lawsuit alleges Express Lanes' profit margin on gas increased by more than 400 percent in the days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. Nixon is asking the court to order the defendant to pay penalties to the local school fund.
The Attorney General also filed nine assurances of voluntary compliance with circuit courts around the state. The owners of those stations, which Nixon had investigated for allegations of price gouging, will pay a total of $6,750 to the local school fund and have agreed to comply with Missouri consumer protection laws. An additional $4,000 has been suspended, pending their compliance. Those stations are:
|Travel Centers of America||Highway 80, Matthews||$2,500|
|Pierce Petroleum||Broadway CITGO, Poplar Bluff
Northside CITGO, Poplar Bluff
Millie's CITGO, Wappapello
|Jiffy Jim's||Truman Blvd and Third St., Caruthersville||$750|
|24-7 Minimart||333 Leroux St., Doniphan||$750|
|Duckett Truck Center||Highway 67 North, Poplar Bluff||$750|
|Ross Oil Corp.||North Main, Piedmont||$500|
|Snak Atak No. 14||1006 Range Line, Joplin||$500|
"When retailers take advantage of a situation like these natural disasters and their actions prevent consumers from making rational buying decisions, it is appropriate for the Attorney General to act," Nixon said. "This is very much like the situation we saw right after Sept. 11."
Forty-eight gas station operators settled with Nixon's office as a result of a similar investigation after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Nixon's investigators reviewed billing and pricing documents from gas stations across Missouri where consumers had complained of high prices, as well as thousands of gas receipts from state vehicles. Nixon also credited the assistance of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' Energy Center and the Missouri Department of Agriculture in helping with field work to investigate complaints of gas price gouging.
More than 350 calls have come into the Attorney General's Consumer Complaint Hotline since Aug. 29. Nixon encourages Missourians to continue to report their concerns about high gas prices to the hotline at 800-392-8222.