Minn. Retailer Challenges Min. Price Law

Company had been ordered to stop selling below cost

DULUTH, Minn. -- A chain of Minnesota gas stations is challenging a state law that requires sellers to charge consumers a minimum price, reported the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Midwest Oil of Minnesota filed suit Monday in Ramsey County District Court, arguing the law is unconstitutional and hinders competition, said the report.

In June, as reported in CSP Daily News, the state Commerce Department accused Midwest Oil of selling, offering or advertising gasoline below the state minimum on more than 160 occasions. Minnesota law prohibits [image-nocss] any retailer from engaging in unfair discrimination and competition by selling, offering or advertising gasoline below cost.

State officials ordered Midwest Oil to stop selling below cost and to respond to the allegations. The case has been moving through the state's administrative court system, the report said. Midwest Oil could face as much as $1.6 million in civil fines if an administrative judge finds the company violated the law.

In court papers, the Shawano, Wis.-based company explained it had acquired four retail locations in Minnesota from operators who had failed in their business operations.

Commerce Department spokesperson Bruce Gordon said his agency is simply enforcing the law. The issue in this complaint is constitutionality, he told the newspaper. Our attorney is the Attorney General's Office, and this will be an issue for them to discuss and to pursue in court.

Midwest Oil of Minnesota and Midwest Oil of Shawano are subsidiaries of the R.C. Samanta Roy Institute of Science & Technology of Shawano.