Gas stations must defend price hikes - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Gas stations must defend price hikes

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

October 8, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - More than 150 Georgia gas stations will be sent subpoenas forcing them to defend their inflated prices after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

Wednesday, the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs said subpoenas would be sent to stations in Tifton and Waycross in southwest Georgia. While complains have fallen off to as few as 25 a day in the days following Ike as many as 300 calls were made to consumer affairs when prices shot up over five dollars in some southwest Georgia communities.

The good news is gas prices in Albany were as low as $3.44 at Woodalls and $3.48 at Enmark along Slappey Boulevard. That's lower than the national average price per gallon and lower than the price was per gallon before the storms hit.

The Dougherty County Sheriff's office however continues to monitor the prices in the county and says they're still seeing some questionable fluctuation in prices.

Gas prices at 93 Dougherty County gas stations continue to be watched closely by the Sheriff's office at least until Friday.

"There's been a lot of fluctuation, prices going up ten cents, coming down ten cents, going up 15 cents, back and forth a lot of fluctuation," said Captain Craig Dodd, Dougherty County Sheriff's Office.

The Governor's emergency declaration that monitors prices expires October 12th. Complaints of gouging that poured into consumer affairs in the days that followed Ike have some stations now defending their actions to raise prices.

"We're reviewing each complaint we're looking at the ones we think are the best examples of price gouging and we're sending those people subpoenas to get the information about their pricing," said Bill Cloud, Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs spokesman.

The BP on Slappey Boulevard didn't get a subpoena and doesn't believe a complaint has been filed against them, but say stations should be called into question if they took advantage of customers.

"I don't have any problems with monitoring or asking questions. They can do anything, whatever they want to do," said Nainesh Patel, BP Manager.

As subpoenas are filed many stations say tanker stops are becoming more regular.

"We're doing good, we're getting at least two or three times a week we're getting loads," said Patel.

The prices are once again falling, putting smiles on customers faces.

"The price is lower too now so they're happy," said Patel.

After the 12th, the Sheriff's office will tabulate their information and send it along with a summarized report to the Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs Investigative Division for review. They'll ultimately decide if more stations could be questioned about their records.

The state received over 1,500 complaints of price gouging from customers angry over what they were paying at the pump.

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