Georgia Doles Out Fines

More than 30 Georgia gas stations have paid fines to the state Office of Consumer Affairs over alleged price gouging in the wake of Gulf Coast hurricanes last fall.

According to the Associated Press, some stations have to pay up to $10,000 in fines to the state, while others must refund money to customers who can prove they bought gas during the price spike. The list includes a $20,000 fine against nine Tennessee-based Pilot Travel Center stations. The stations are among 200 the state is investigating over complaints of unfairly raising gas prices when hurricanes shuttered several Gulf Coast oil refineries and left several southern states without enough gas, the report said.

Under state law, businesses have to prove they were making the same profit with their elevated prices as they were before the governor activated the anti-gouging statute.

Pilot released a statement saying the case involved a technical violation to Georgia law “in that it was not recovering its full cost on the date when the state of emergency was declared. Had Pilot increased its prices at the time of the declaration in order to recover all of its costs, Pilot likely would not have been found in violation.”

The company operates 340 travel centers and convenience stores in 41 states, concentrated mostly in the Southeast and Midwest. Gas prices peaked at Pilot stations in Knoxville at $4.99 a gallon in September, and some stations ran out of gas in the face of long lines of worried customers hoping to fill up, the report said.

Pilot Chief Executive Officer Jimmy Haslam said at the time the compounding effects of Hurricane Gustav followed by Hurricane Ike worked to reduce supply and then raise wholesale prices. Even with raising the retail price, Pilot’s profit still was less than a dime a gallon–about 7.5 cents, he added.

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