Georgia regulators have fined nine gas stations so far and continue to investigate nearly 200 others over consumer complaints of price gouging when Hurricanes Gustav and Ike made fuel scarce last September.
Some of the stations have to refund money to customers who can prove with a receipt they bought gas during the price spike, while others have to pay up to $5,000 in fines to the state.
The stations are among 200 the state is investigating over complaints of unfairly raising gas prices after Gov. Sonny Perdue activated the state’s anti-gouging statutes Sept. 12, said Bill Cloud, spokesman for the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs.
Most of the investigations should be wrapped up in the next few months, he said. The consumer affairs office is posting the names of the fined stations online so that the 2,400 motorists who complained can check on the status of each case, Cloud said.
“What people need to understand is this is law enforcement, the laws that pertain to price gouging,” Cloud said. “We are in charge of enforcing those laws, and we are going to do that.”
Gustav and Ike shuttered Gulf Coast oil refineries for a few weeks because of power outages, which left several southern states, including Georgia, without enough gas. The shortage made gas prices shoot up across the region and frustrated motorists who had to hunt for fuel and wait in line sometimes for hours to fill up.
The average price of gas in Georgia hit $4.16, the highest ever recorded average for the state.
One station in Cobb County charged $8.82 a gallon, while another in Houston County was asking customers to pay $7. Another station had posted a price of $9.99.
Under state law, businesses have to prove that they were making the same profit with their elevated prices as they were before Gov. Sonny Perdue activated the anti-gouging statutes in September.
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the state got 6,000 complaints of price gouging. The state investigated about 200 gas stations, and ended up fining 80 stations for price gouging, Cloud said.
ROME NEWS TRIBUNE