Gas gouging: 1,200 plus complaints in FL

By Allison Bybee email
Posted by Rachel Leigh email

PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL (WFLX) - Just when we started seeing gas prices dropping, they take a huge jump. Nearly hitting the $4.00 mark in some cities. That has many drivers across the state fuming.

Right now, the national average for a gallon of gas is $3.84. That's up 5 cents from Sunday. In Palm Beach County, we're paying $3.87 on average. That's almost unchanged from a year ago.

The explanation some stations are giving to customers, like Michael Ingresoll, "From Hurricane Ike."

Over the weekend, the State Attorney General's office received more than 700 complaints on price gouging. More than a dozen people called out the Pilot and Flying J in Fort Pierce.

Gas at Pilot on Monday was $4.09. A couple miles up the road at Flying J, gas was $4.29. Drivers of the big rigs say the hike is ridiculous.

The rise over the weekend said to be a result of the storm. Gas stations fearing lost oil rigs or praying on nervous drivers, jacked up prices.

Price gouging is illegal in Florida.

Florida Attorney General's Office Spokeswoman, Sandi Copes, says, "We've received thousands of calls. We've entered thousands of complaints into the price gouging data base, and we have investigators looking into each and every complaint."

Many drivers searched for cheaper gas. Skipping $4.00 a gallon at one station, headed for $3.89. It may be cheaper, but still frustrating to drivers like David Kanbar, "I guess it's frustrating. I mean, I fill up my truck twice a week; that's $200 a week. I drive it around a lot for work."

The State Attorney General's Office has launched an investigation into four major companies accused of price gouging. If they did, they will pay a hefty fine. Right now, the state has 16 subpoenas ready to go. They want the records from companies to see what they paid for fuel in relation to what they are charging. Companies could pay any where from $1,000 to $25,000.

Thirty-four people from Palm Beach County called to complain about price gouging. Twenty-three complaints were from St. Lucie County, two in Martin and Okeechobee Counties and only one complaint in Indian River County.

If you feel any gas stations in our area are unlawfully asking too much, you can call the price gouging hotline 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.

Meanwhile, with worries over gas supplies on the rise, panicked drivers filled their tanks and emptied the pumps this weekend.

Right now, the state says it could take more than a week to replenish gas supplies at service stations across the state.

The Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association's president calls the buying rush unprecedented.

He says based on information he received from member stations. The amount of gasoline sold between Thursday night and Saturday morning was triple what they normally sell.

He goes on to say the state has an adequate supply of gasoline.