SALEM, Ore. -- The Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a $409 million verdict against oil and gas producer BP for including a 35-cent debit-card fee on customer purchases without notifying them, according to a report in the Oregonian. BP disputes the claim and plans to continue its challenge of the verdict.
“BP strongly disagrees with the decision by the Court of Appeals and will appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court. We continue to believe that our debit-card practices were lawful and consistent with our goal of providing our customers quality fuel at the lowest possible cost,” Brett Clanton, BP spokesman, told CSP Daily News.
The appeals court case was the result of a 2014 decision from the Multnomah County Circuit Court, which concluded that BP must repay more than 2 million customers who bought gas in Oregon from Arco and ampm gas stations from 2011 to 2013. Plaintiffs include c-store customer Steven Scharfstein on behalf of other consumers and the Oregon State Bar Association.
The 35-cent fee was advertised inside stores but not on street-visible signs or at the pump, according to court documents. The Arco and ampm stations that included the fee were independently operated but were following rules from BP, according to the appeals court decision.
Attorneys for BP claimed the fees were clearly advertised and that stores were not misleading customers. They argued that Oregon’s gasoline price advertising rule did not apply to the debit-card add-on. David Sugerman, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, said otherwise.
“The gas was already in your car. You would go inside, and congratulations, your $10 of gas is now $10.35,” Sugerman said to the Oregonian.
The appeals court ultimately agreed with Sugerman’s argument, sayiing that only cash-paying customers paid the price as advertised on street signs. Almost all Arco and ampm stations accepted cash and debit cards, but not credit cards, at the time.
BP's U.S. headquarters is in La Palma, Calif.