Winters: State will not tolerate price "gouging" at the gas pump

Winters: State will not tolerate price “gouging” at the gas pump


State Representative Dave Winters last Wednesday joined several other Illinois state officials in warning the petroleum industry not to use Tuesday’s tragedies in New York, Washington, D.C. and Pennsylvania as an excuse to gouge Illinois motorists.

Within the 24 hours following the disasters, gas prices have soared across the country with cities in Illinois reporting prices at the pump as high as $3 to $4 per gallon. Governor George Ryan denounced what he called “price gouging”, and Attorney General Jim Ryan’s office has already dispatched investigators to look into alleged reports of gouging at the pumps. Representative Winters said he strongly supports state and federal actions to protect consumers from those who would use the recent tragic events as an excuse to line their pockets.

“Tragedies such as those our nation suffered yesterday bring out the best in most of us. Unfortunately, there are always a few people who look for ways to capitalize on other’s misfortune,” Winters said. “I applaud the governor and the attorney general for their swift response to early allegations of price gouging, and I will strongly support state and federal efforts to protect Illinois consumers.”

Winters stressed that local motorists can help keep gas prices stable in our area by patronizing only those stations who have kept their prices relatively low, and by reporting suspicions of attempted price gouging to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-243-0618.

He added that the recent gas price instability should strengthen our resolve to reduce our dependence on foreign oil by increasing our use of homegrown alternatives such as ethanol and biodiesel.

“We can reduce our reliance on foreign oil and the whims of the petroleum industry by increasing our use of alternative fuels,” Winters said. “I will continue to work to boost the use of Illinois-grown ethanol and biodiesel here in Illinois and across the country.”

Ogle County takes

action against gas gouging

Ogle County State’s Attorney Doug Floski and Sheriff Mel Messer are asking residents to keep their gasoline receipts and contact law enforcement immediately if they suspect price gouging at gas pumps in the county.

They are taking this step at the request of Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, whose office has received numerous reports of price gouging throughout the state.

“It is inconceivable to me that anyone would try to take advantage of the American people during this, our nation’s deepest crisis,” Floski said. “The attorney general has made it very clear that he will not tolerate this type of conduct, and my office will totally support his efforts.”

Messer said both his department and Floski’s office have received calls in recent days about gas prices jumping between 20 and 40 cents a gallon at some Ogle County gas stations since Tuesday, Sept. 11. Statewide, there have been reports of regular unleaded selling for as much as $5 per gallon.

“We are not going to decide what price constitutes gouging,” Messer said. “We are going to investigate any and all complaints and refer them to the attorney general. If he thinks a 40-cent hike is gouging, then he will take action—it’s just that simple.”

Floski said the Attorney General’s Office has filed consumer fraud civil suits against the Iowa-based Casey’s General Store, Inc., alleging violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act. Stations in 13 Illinois communities have been sued so far.

“None of the stations sued are in or around Ogle County, which, I hope, says a lot about the decency of the people who conduct business in our community,” Floski said. “Nevertheless, my office has received complaints about perceived price gouging in Ogle County, and we will refer that information to the attorney general for potential civil action.”

According to the attorney general’s lawsuit, Casey’s at the 13 locations was selling 87 octane gasoline at about $1.68 a gallon on Monday morning prior to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C. After the attack, prices at the stations increased to as much as $5 a gallon. The lawsuit alleges that Casey’s attempted to seize on the public misconception that there will be an abnormal market disruption of an essential commodity in the recovery period following the terrorist attack,” the lawsuit states. Floski said consumers who suspect gouging are to ask for printed receipts and then bring the receipts to his office. Residents who suspect gouging can also call the Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud hotline at (800) 386-5438 (Chicago area) or (800) 243-618 (downstate area).

Durbin to submit findings to Senate

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said that dozens of constituents have reported unfair gas prices at stations across the state. In response to Durbin’s call for constituents to help him in seeking out gas price gougers, consumers sent their stories to the senator via fax, mail and telephone calls.

• Mark Colombo of Mt. Vernon reported paying $5.88 per gallon at Beer Port in Edgewood on Sept. 11.

• Penny Robertson of Atwood reported paying $2.25 per gallon at Casey’s on Sept. 11.

• Len Wells of Fairfield reported paying $3.00 per gallon at Davis Marathon on Sept. 11. Wells, the news director at WFIW-WOKS Radio, said the station also told the local ambulance service that diesel fuel prices would increase to $10 per gallon by Wednesday. Wells said the station then offered refunds to consumers on Wednesday who paid the $3.00 inflated price.

“Thank you for joining me in this fight against bad business,” Durbin said. “These gas station owners should be ashamed of themselves for taking advantage of consumers when they were most vulnerable. Gas gouging in the wake of Tuesday’s attack is no better than looting during a national tragedy.”

Durbin plans to submit the reports and others pouring in to his Springfield office to the Senate Government Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which will hold hearings on the issue. Durbin is a member of that committee.

After Durbin and other state officials called on the gas station owners to admit to using this attack on American soil as a means for personal profit, media reports show that some gas station owners are offering refunds, and others are turning their profits over to charity.

Durbin commended the gas station owners who have granted refunds or turned their profits over to charity organizations, but said that does not make up for the fact that consumers across the state were cheated.

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