N.Y. AG upset with gas stations

Nick Rees Jun. 9, 2011, 1:53am


WATERTOWN, N.Y. (Legal Newsline) - Several Watertown gas stations have been issued cease and desist letters by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Wednesday over alleged false advertising of prices.

Letters were sent to the owners of Valentine Stores Inc., Rajit Inc., and General Store Inc., requiring them to discontinue deceptive roadside marketing and come into compliance. The companies allegedly advertised one price but charged customers more at the pump.

At least four of Valentine's Nice N Easy gas stations throughout Valentine, the Valero Gas Station on Arsenal Street and the General Stores on Bradley Street are alleged to have engaged in the false advertising on their street-view signing. The advertised low price was for "cash only" transactions, but the text indicating this was the cash price was small and not easily visible, Schneiderman says.

Listing a roadside price without equally prominent disclosure of the higher standard price for credit purchases is a violation of the New York Executive Law 61 (12) prohibition against deceptive acts and practices. It is also a violation of the General Business Law.

"What these gas stations did is a classic example of bait and switch," Schneiderman said. "Consumers were lured in by the lower price but when they went to fill up their tanks, they were hit with a higher price if they didn't pay with cash. At a time when gas prices are high enough already, my office will work to make sure consumers are not tricked into paying a penny more by such deceptive practices."

Schneiderman's actions come at a time when reports predict that gasoline prices could be as high as one dollar more on average than they were last year. The American Automobile Association reports that the current gasoline price in New York state is $3.97, up from an average price of $2.91 at this time last year.

Additionally, Schneiderman has been appointed to a national Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group instituted by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

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