McCollum: Price-fixer must pay

John O'Brien May 25, 2007, 1:00pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - For the second time in the past year, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is suing a company that he believes unfairly fixed the price of gasoline.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in the First Judicial Circuit against Fill-Ups Food Stores III and Ryan Phillips, who owns the approximately 60 Fill-Ups in northwest Florida. McCollum claims Phillips demanded another retail owner fix the price of gasoline at her store to match the prices Phillips set at his -- an increase of three cents per gallon.

"Price-fixing is a serious offense," McCollum said. "It destroys the competitive nature of business, undermines the free market of the economy, all the while placing the burden on the back of the consumer."

The other store owner reported that she felt physically threatened by Phillips for three months until her lease was cancelled in April. Phillips took over ownership of the store afterward.

McCollum called Phillips' alleged actions, "immoral, oppressive and unscrupulous."

"Considering the burden Floridians are feeling at gas pumps across the state, the notion that one individual may be systematically attempting to illegally profit at their expense is unconscionable," McCollum said.

McCollum charges Phillips and his company with violating the Florida Antitrust Act and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. The lawsuit seeks a $100,000 penalty on Phillips for each violation of the Antitrust Act, and a $1 million penalty on Fill-Ups for each violation.

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