Division of Standards Upholds Fines against Two Gas Stations for Price Advertising Violations
During period of rising gas prices pricing methods remain under scrutiny by inspectors
BOSTON - May 12, 2011 - As consumers continue to scour for the lowest gas prices possible as fuel costs escalate, the Patrick-Murray Administration's Division of Standards has denied appeals by two gas stations, fining the stations a total of $1,000 for improperly advertising gas prices.
At one station, Sam's Citgo at 400 Main St., Sturbridge, street signage was set at a price lower than at the pump. At the other station, Medford Square Gas, 1 Mystic Ave., Medford, an initial complaint led to the local inspector discovering six pumps had posted prices lower than the pump price.
The Division of Standards and local weights-and-measures officials are constantly out in the field inspecting gas pumps and station signage, and responding to consumer complaints regarding price advertising issues.
"With prices going through the roof, consumers are making an extra effort to seek out lower-priced gas, and signs that advertise the wrong price for gas are misleading and improper," said Barbara Anthony, the Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, which oversees the Division of Standards. "Now more than ever, gas station owners and managers need to be sure they are following proper procedures when it comes to changing prices at the pump and on signs."
State regulations regarding price advertising are designed to notify consumers of accurate pricing on all signage, with increases first noted on street signage - where consumers first gauge pricing - and decreases first reflected at the pump in order to maximize the benefit for consumers.
At Sam's Citgo in Sturbridge, inspectors on April 20 saw the price at the pump was set at $3.83. However, the price consumers saw on road signage was $3.75. That discrepancy could lead consumers to assume they were paying the lower price. The $100 fine, the maximum per violation, was assessed. The station's appeal was denied.
At Medford Square Gas in Medford, the city inspector was alerted by consumers on April 14 that the street price was lower than the pump price. When the inspector arrived, the street price had been updated to match the pump price. However, signs that sit on top of the pump had yet to be updated on six pumps. Inspectors found 18 violations, with three different octane levels on each pump improperly priced, leading to $900 in fines.
"Our inspectors and local inspectors are in the field every day, but we cannot be at every gas station checking prices on a daily basis," said Charles Carroll, the Director of the Division of Standards. "If consumers see a pricing issue at a gas station, we encourage them to call us immediately so we can inspect the station and take action if there is a violation."
The Patrick-Murray Administration's Division of Standards enforces laws, rules, and regulations relating to weights and measures and the use of weighing and measuring devices in commercial transactions. It consistently checks item pricing and pricing methods at retailers throughout Massachusetts. The Division is part of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. For more on the Division and the Office, visit www.mass.gov/consumer and the Office's Consumer Connections blog, and follow the Office on Twitter @Mass_Consumer.