Lawsuit challenges Exxon's pricing practices

December 10, 2009 5:01:15 PM PST
A group representing more than 100 family-run Exxon gas stations has done something unprecedented. They are suing Exxon in federal court.

"This lawsuit seeks to figure out what means Exxon uses to calculate the price of gas because it affects what people pay," said attorney Marc Gross.

Gross is the attorney for the group called United Dealers of New Jersey.

The suit claims that Exxon manipulates delivery schedules, creates shortages as prices rise and increases rents as the market drops.

It's forcing some stations out of business.

The biggest problem is something called zone pricing.

"What Exxon has done is divide New Jersey up into roughly 100 zones. They charge different prices in each of these zones," Gross explained.

Here's an example. At one station, we found regular unleaded priced at $3.49 a gallon. That's virtually unheard of in New Jersey. Just a few miles away at another Exoon, the price is $2.53 a gallon.

"It's unfair to charge one station more than another because of where it is. It should be universal," driver Brian Bongard said.

Customers like Bongard just want to see all things fair. He doesn't want to see the stations pay more, because he doesn't want to pay more.

Gross hopes this suit will have a ripple effect across the country. He also knows it will be an uphill battle.

We spoke with a representative from Exxon who told us that the company will defend itself vigorously.