ST. LOUIS -- In a repeat of 2011, a group of St. Louis convenience store owners aims to bring QuikTrip to civil court on claims of predatory gasoline pricing and violations of federal and state retail-pricing protective acts.
The lawsuit filed April 7 claims QuikTrip engaged in a price war in the St. Louis area beginning in July 2011, "with QuikTrip posting reduced pricing changes for its gasoline on almost a daily basis ... in an effort to monopolize the sale of retail gasoline in the St. Louis metropolitan marketplace."
"The pricing of gasoline by Quick Trip [sic] during this period has been predatory because, based on information and belief, QuikTrip has been pricing its gasoline for customers at a price lower than QuikTrip's costs," according to the filing obtained by CSP Daily News. "As a result of QuikTrip's said predatory pricing, plaintiffs have been forced to lower their retail prices for gasoline in order to maintain customers and remain in business."
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are West Moreland Service Inc., G.N.W. Enterprises Inc. and Halls Ferry
Service L.L.C. Both West Moreland and G.N.W. claim they were "forced … out of the St. Louis marketplace" by QT's alleged price war.
"The predatory price war engaged in by QuikTrip has caused injury to competition in the retail sale of gasoline in the St. Louis marketplace, which will ultimately cause harm to consumers in the form of higher gasoline prices dictated by QuikTrip," the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs, represented by attorney Eric Vickers, claim QuikTrip is in violation of three protective laws, including:
- The Robinson-Patman Act, a federal law that provides the public protection against predatory price cutting.
- The Sheman Act, a federal law meant to protect the public against monopoly economic power.
- The Missouri Motor Fuel Marketing Act, which was created to prevent predatory pricing in the sale of gasoline to the public that causes monopolistic takeovers and harm consumers in the form of higher gasoline prices.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs request the judge:
- Enjoin QT's pricing practices.
- Award the plaintiffs "in excess of $50 million," as well as court and attorney fees.
- Impose civil penalties on QT.
- Enjoin QT from being both a distributor and retailer of gasoline.
- Provide for additional relief as deemed appropriate.
The lawsuit is similar to an action requested in November 2011 by West Moreland Service and others, then representing themselves as the Association of Independent Gas Station Owners. After multiple continuations, that lawsuit was finally dismissed in August 2012 with the judge noting that the plaintiff "failed to show that it has suffered any injury" and that the "plaintiff lacks standing in both an individual and a representative capacity, and therefore the court need not reach [the] defendant's arguments," as CSP Daily News reported exclusively at the time.
This is the third lawsuit filed in the St. Louis market by the same people, QT manager of public and governmental affairs Mike Thornbrugh told CSP Daily News, adding the complaints are "completely meritless."