A group of California gasoline station owners are bringing three oil giants into U.S. federal district court in San Francisco, accusing the companies of fixing gasoline prices across the U.S. from 1998 to 2001.
The suit claims that Texaco—now owned by Chevron Corp.—and U.S. units of state-owned Saudi Aramco of Saudi Arabia and of Royal Dutch Shell Plc. sold gasoline to 23,000 Texaco and Shell stations at artificially high prices.
The suit is similar to one filed in 2004 by California gasoline station owners, which was dismissed last year by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Joseph M. Alioto told Reuters the top U.S. court rejected the former case because it sought to prove just fixed prices. This time, Alioto said, he and his fellow attorneys will attempt to prove unfair competition laws were broken.
“All of this started at the Masters Golf Tournament,” Alioto told Reuters. “The guy from Shell got a brainstorm while he was watching the pros hit those pebbled balls around and called the CEO of Texaco.”
The plaintiffs are looking for class action status citing that some stations lost $10,000 or more a month because of what were allegedly practices that raised prices by cutting competition.
Shell Oil representative Sarah Andreani told Reuters that Shell, Equilon and Motiva were “carefully and extensively reviewed by the (U.S.) Federal Trade Commission and by several state attorneys general prior to their formation—and earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a decision that neither Shell nor the joint ventures violated any antitrust law.”
No hearing date has been set.