Texan Calls for Investigation

Edwards wants AG to look into gas price gouging

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas State Representative Al Edwards (D) said last week that he will be sponsoring legislation fighting the high prices of gasoline in Texas. The average price of $2.157 per gallon that Texas motorists paid in early April 2005 was the highest gasoline price in Texas ever recorded by the American Automobile Association, he said.

The ripple effect of rising gasoline prices impacts all consumer goods, he said in a statement. "The price of gas went way too high, too fast, but we're going to try to do something about it. The proposed legislation, [image-nocss] HR 1242, will direct the Texas Attorney General's Office to conduct a study to ensure that the high price of gasoline in the state is not the result of price gouging.

It is the responsibility of the AG's Consumer Protection Division to investigate unexplained price hikes that could be the result of consumer fraud, he said.

Also, the legislation would also direct the AG's Office to provide information to help Texas consumers find the lowest possible price for gasoline in their community. The AGs of other states, such as Florida and Illinois, have launched websites to allow citizens to find and report the lowest gasoline prices in their communities as well as to report any suspicion of excessively high gasoline prices. These AGs offices also help residents to check average gasoline prices in any city in the state and allow consumers to file a complaint if price gouging is suspected.

The Deceptive Trade Practices Act and other consumer protection statutes are subject to action by the consumer protection division of the AG's office to protect Texans against consumer fraud, including price gouging, he said. Legislation like that being sponsored by Edwards would provide for local gasoline price monitoring and would provide Texans with an extra level of protection against such actions, he said.

Prices have gone up too high, too fast, Edwards said, according to a report by The Houston Chronicle. I'm not so sure gas prices should be as high as they are.

He added, There are people out there hurting over this. Cars aren't getting more miles per gallon. People who are on a fixed income's checks didn't increase. The elderly certainly aren't receiving more money from retirement checks.

AGs in Texas and other states found evidence of price gouging after Sept. 11, 2001, and again in 2003, the resolution states.

Lynton Allred, executive vice president of the Texas Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association, said someone out there might be getting rich, but it isn't the retailers. These complaints aren't uncommon during these kinds of times, Allred told the newspaper. We are concerned, too, not about the price gouging, but about the prices. Unfortunately, we are on the firing lines.

Most people are under the impression that the retail market indiscriminately decides to raise gas prices, but that isn't true, Allred said. The prices you see today are a direct result of the increase in crude oil pricing as well as the refined product charges, he said. When one of our trucks goes out to the terminal, we have nothing to say about the price there. When those prices increase, we have no choice but to raise prices at the retail level.

Edwards' resolution would need to be passed by both chambers of the state legislature and be signed by the governor before the AG's office could begin the study. I don't think too many Texans really have the real answers, Edwards said. I hope they can come back to us with real answers and tell us why the prices are what they are.