CUOMO ISSUES CONSUMER ALERT FOR SOUTHERN TIER DRIVERS AFTER INVESTIGATION REVEALS GAS STATIONS ENGAGED IN DECEPTIVE PRACTICES

By WBNG News

CUOMO ISSUES CONSUMER ALERT FOR SOUTHERN TIER DRIVERS AFTER INVESTIGATION REVEALS GAS STATIONS ENGAGED IN DECEPTIVE PRACTICES

July 22, 2010 Updated Aug 28, 2008 at 5:18 PM EDT

ATTORNEY GENERAL CUOMO ISSUES CONSUMER ALERT FOR SOUTHERN TIER DRIVERS AFTER INVESTIGATION REVEALS GAS STATIONS ENGAGED IN DECEPTIVE PRACTICES

With Drivers Hitting the Road for Labor Day Weekend, AG Releases New Findings of Gas Stations Engaged in Deceptive Practices, Including Overcharging Credit Card Users and Bait and Switch

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Cuomo Issues Consumer Alert to Southern Tier and is Sending “Cease-and-Desist” Letters to Gas Stations across region

The Attorney General's office said there are 4 stations in question.
They are located in Burdett, Ithaca, Nichols and Sidney.

With New York drivers hitting the road for Labor Day weekend, Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today issued a consumer alert after his office’s undercover investigation into the sale of gasoline found that gas stations across the Southern Tier engaged in deceptive practices, including wrongful surcharges for credit card customers and bait-and-switch tactics.

Cuomo’s expanding investigation into illegal practices at gas stations has found the plague of improper practices discovered downstate is also spreading across other regions of the state. Under New York State law, retailers are not allowed to impose a surcharge on customers for using a credit card.

In addition, Cuomo’s investigation also identified instances where gas stations engaged in false advertising by only listing the lower cash prices on their street-view signage in order to lure patrons to the pump. In several cases, the stations failed to disclose that the price was only for cash transactions. Once at the pump, consumers discovered that they were charged more for using a credit card - a deceptive “bait and switch” practice.

Today, Cuomo warned drivers across the Southern Tier to be on the guard for gas stations that overcharge credit card users at the pump. His office is also in the process of sending “cease-and-desist” letters to gas stations that were found to have engaged in deceptive and unlawful practices, and is following up on the hundreds of consumer complaints it received since the investigation was announced last week on Long Island. Letters were also sent to 30 New York City gas stations today and 43 were previously sent to Long Island stations

“With drivers hitting the road this weekend and gas prices through the roof, the last thing New York drivers need are gas stations hitting them with exorbitant prices for paying with a credit card,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Southern Tier residents rely heavily on their cars to get to work and shop, and more than ever need to be on the guard against deceptive and illegal practices some gas stations use to squeeze every last dollar out of their customers.”

Cuomo noted that customers who use credit cards already pay a premium to the credit card company. An additional “usage fee” at the pump doubly penalizes the customer. The investigation also determined that by withholding the higher credit card price until the consumer has already parked at the pump, the stations mislead consumers and prevent honest comparative price shopping from the street. Some gas stations did include the word “cash” in small letters on the large signs, but the word was too small or faint to read from the street.

This behavior comes at a time when reports show that gasoline prices this summer are more than 32 percent higher than they were last summer.

“Today’s gas prices dictate that fewer and fewer consumers have enough cash on-hand to pay the ‘cash-only’ price to fill up their tanks,” added Attorney General Cuomo. “Therefore, it is inexcusable that business owners would use the lure of lower prices to entice customers and then rip them off. These stations are breaking the law and they must immediately stop these deceptive practices, or they will be subject to further action by my office.”

The Automobile Association of America (AAA)’s Director of Government Affairs, John A. Corlett, said, “The AAA commends Attorney General Cuomo for undertaking this initiative. AAA is a proud partner in this fight. His warning to the stations engaging in this deceptive act is a welcome service to drivers who desperately need relief at the gas pump.”

Consumers who see gas stations prominently advertising the cash-only price on primary signage and then indicating at the pump that credit card customers will be charged more are urged to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at 1-800-771-7755.

The investigation is being conducted by Darcy Goddard, Assistant Attorney General, Kate Burson, Assistant Attorney General, Deputy Chief Investigator Thomas Richardson, Supervisor Investigator Georgia Nurse, Investigator Paul Matthews, Investigator William Lightbody, and Investigator Andre Job

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