shell zone pricing suit dismissed

Six local dealers plan to appeal against ruling.

A federal judge dismissed claims by six gas station owners who alleged that Shell Oil Co. charged them more for gasoline in order to drive customers to nearby company-owned locations.

The month-long lawsuit was thrown out of a U.S. District Court in Santa Ana on Tuesday before attorneys were set to deliver closing arguments.

Judge James V. Selna dismissed the case after concluding that testimony provided by an expert witness did not meet legal minimum standards and could not be used by the jury to determine any possible losses suffered by the defendants, according to the Associated Press.

The trial was closely watched in the industry because it challenged a common practice known as “zone pricing.” Oil companies often charge different wholesale prices for gasoline depending on commuter patterns and other factors. The idea is that prices can be adjusted quickly within zones to stay competitive, according to the AP.

The Houston-based Shell said it was satisfied with the decision.

“The plaintiffs clearly failed to present evidence to support their allegations,” Shell spokeswoman Anne Peebles told the Los Angles Times.

Thomas Bleau, an attorney for the Shell dealers, said his clients would appeal the ruling. It’s estimated that the plaintiffs loss close to $300,000 because of Shell’s practices.

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