Technology/Services

Class-Action Lawsuit Targets Dollar General’s Fuel Payment Policy

Discount retailer puts change from gas purchases on a gift card rather than providing cash
dollar general
Photograph: Shutterstock

Discount retailer Dollar General Corp. is the subject of a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division, brought by plaintiff Cecil Burns of Lafayette County, Mississippi, a motorist who received a Dollar General gift card in lieu of change from his cash payment for fuel. The plaintiff is demanding a jury trial, according to court documents.

Dollar General has “employed a nationwide and uniform scheme to steal that choice from consumers who opt to pay cash for fuel at the defendants’ fuel pumps,” the court documents say. “Specifically, defendants maintain a policy that denies consumers who pay for fuel in cash the right to receive their change in cash. Instead, defendants place consumers’ change onto a Dollar General fuel card that can only be used to purchase products at defendants’ stores. Defendants carry out this scheme without first disclosing it to consumers.”

Dollar General, which opened its 20,000th store in February, opened its first gas station in 2013, located in Hanceville, Alabama. In 2016, the company acquired 41 former Walmart Express locations, intending to sell fuel at 37 of those locations.

According to court documents, Dollar General fuel customers must prepay for an estimated amount of fuel with an estimated total price, and the retailer returns any value not used for fuel to the customer on a gift card rather than in cash. Since the cards can only be used at Dollar General locations, the retailer has “unjustly enriched” itself at the expense of the class.

On March 17, 2022, Burns visited a Dollar General gas station in Sardis, Mississippi. Burns intended to fill up his vehicle, but he did not know how much gasoline would be required to fill the tank. He gave the cashier a $100 bill. The cashier told him he would need a fuel card to operate the pump, which the cashier provided. The total cost of the gas to fill his vehicle was $40.02, and Burns returned to the cashier to collect his $59.98 in change. The cashier refused to give Burns his change and told him that Dollar General does not provide change in cash, instead depositing the change on a gift card that could be used at any Dollar General store or gas station, but nowhere else.

“At no time before Burns requested his change did the cashier inform him that any change from his $100 would be placed on the card and not refunded to him in cash,” the court documents say. “No signage or documentation at the cash register or by the gas pumps stated that any change remaining from a fuel purchase made in cash would be placed on [the] defendants’ fuel card.”

Burns immediately called the Sardis, Mississippi, Police Department. A police officer talked with an employee as well as the store manager. The store manager told the officer that it was Dollar General’s policy to place change from cash purchases of fuel on a gift card and refused the officer’s request to give Burns his $59.98 in cash in exchange for the card, stating that she was following the chain’s policy.

The court documents define the proposed class as “all persons in the United States who purchased gasoline in cash at a Dollar General location and had their change placed on a Dollar General fuel card.”

The class is “entitled to compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial,” the documents say. “Defendants’ conduct constitutes a willful, reckless disregard for the rights of plaintiff and the class and entitles plaintiff and the class to punitive damages, attorney fees and costs in amounts to be proven at trial. … Defendants’ practice is inequitable, against good conscience and in violation of applicable state laws. As a result of defendants’ unjust enrichment, plaintiff and the class are entitled to a refund in the amount of the change they should have received but for defendants’ unlawful fuel card practice”

Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based Dollar General did not immediately respond to a CSP request for comment.

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