Gasoline prices drop; stations get warning

Thursday, September 13th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Gasoline prices eased and long lines subsided in Oklahoma on Wednesday after warnings against price gouging from the governor and state investigators. If you would like to report an incident of price gouging, click here to fill out the Corporation Commission's on-line complaint form.

One service station owner even said he would pay refunds to customers he charged $5 a gallon for gasoline on Tuesday, the day terrorists flew jetliners laden with fuel into landmarks in New York and Washington.

``Our investigators are reporting that few stations are selling gas at the greatly inflated prices we saw at some locations yesterday,'' Attorney General Drew Edmondson said. ``Most stations did the responsible thing even during the panic on Tuesday and held prices firm.''

``We received more than 277 calls on our consumer hotline yesterday, reporting gasoline prices ranging up to $9 a gallon,'' Edmondson said. ``Our investigators have visited more than 115 locations and also made several stops at stations which had removed pricing information from their signs. Only a handful of the stations had raised prices to above $2 per gallon, and those stations lowered prices after our visit.''

Ralph Pfenninger, owner of the R and L Texaco in Oklahoma City, said he now realizes he overcharged customers when he raised his prices to $5 a gallon Tuesday. He was offering refunds Wednesday.

He said investigators asked proprietors why they increased prices ``and warned them that should a state of emergency be declared, they could be in violation of state law.''

Reason ``apparently prevailed,'' Edmondson said. ``The lines seem to be done and prices seem to have returned to pre-panic levels.''

Keating credited jawboning by state officials for the lowering of prices.

The governor did not declare a state of emergency, as did some other states on the day of the attack.

But he said he would revisit that issue if price gouging returns ``in a significant way.''

``That is not the Oklahoma way,'' Keating added.

Edmondson said retailers told his investigators that they raised prices after suppliers said there was an impending gasoline shortage.

``They based that on the projection that the United States was going to launch an attack in the Middle East, and that attack would cause a disruption in oil supply. That is highly speculative, and certainly not a reason to raise prices consumers pay now.''

He cited an American Petroleum Institute statement saying its members denounce any attempt to use the crisis to take advantage of consumers.

``We remain confident that fuels are flowing normally to wholesale and retail markets throughout the United States,'' the statement said. ``Gasoline and diesel inventories are adequate to meet demand and refinery production remains strong.''