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Possibly the most expensive gas in America

Seven On Your Side
January 23, 2009 8:55:17 PM PST
You would think that when the cost of gas went down, retailers would be setting their prices as low as possible to get customers. At most places that is true.

But we found one gas station owner who is doing the opposite and pricing gas above even last summer's sky-high prices. AAA says this is most likely the most expensive gas in America.

The price for regular at this gas station really is $4.89 a gallon.

"I says, no, this can't be right." That's the reaction of Joe Guiliano. He didn't see the price posted at the pump and was charged more than $90 to fill up his Hummer.

"I think its robbery," Joe told 7 On Your Side's Tappy Phillips. "I don't know how this could be legal or how business owners can get away with this."

But it is perfectly legal, even though this price far outpaces the state average of $1.66/gallon. In fact, The law in New Jersey doesn't set any price guidelines. Retailers can charge what they like. It requires only that prices, however high, be posted at the pump.

When 7 On Your Side visited the station in Summit, New Jersey, there weren't many customers buying gas. But the few we found filling up weren't aware of the high price until after we pointed it out to them.

So we asked the station's owner, "$4.89 for gas? What's up with that?" His reply: "You know, it's capitalism."

The operator/owner of the Exxon on Ashwood Avenue in Summit, New Jersey is Eel Chang. He says his price, more than 3 bucks per gallon above the state average, is a form of protest against his parent company, Exxon.

Tappy: "So you're deliberately don't want people to buy this gas?"
Station Owner: "I wouldn't say that."
Tappy: "You're discouraging people from buying this gas?"
Station Owner: "That's one way to look at it."

Mr. Chang's takes issue with something called zone pricing. That's where oil companies sell gasoline at different prices to stations in different areas.

"We think that Exxon has 300 zones in the state of New Jersey." says Sal Risalvato of the New Jersey Gasoline Association.

We found an Exxon less than two miles from Mr. Chang's, selling gas alot cheaper. According to the New Jersey Gasoline Association, it's in a different zone and is paying 15 to 20 cents a gallon less. Mr. Chang says he just can't compete.

Mr. Chang has even sued Exxon in federal court, saying he cannot operate at a profit and remain economically viable while paying more for gas than his competitors..

Exxon told us that they don't set retail prices, store owners do. But when we asked about zone pricing and how much Mr. Chang is charged for gas, Exxon had no comment.

Unfortunately, consumers are the ones caught in the crossfire in this gas price war. So, it's up to consumers to check the price on the pump before they fill up.

"I'm not holding a gun to anyone's head," says the station owner. "Consumers can decided whether to buy it or not."

USEFUL LINKS:

To search for gas prices in your area, click here and enter your zip code.

Links to Information and Resources:

For The Best Prices Locally:

  • www.newyorkgasprices.com
  • www.newjerseygasprices.com
  • www.connecticutgasprices.com

    For The Best Prices Nationwide:

  • www.fuelgaugereport.com
  • www.fuelcostcalculator.com
  • www.gaspricewatch.com
  • www.gasbuddy.com

    Westchester Department of Consumer Protection:

  • Survey of Gasoline Prices

    Government Accountability Office:

  • Guide to Understanding Retail Gas Prices (PDF) ----

    Story by: Tappy Phillips


    Produced by: Steve Livingstone


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