Small gas stations want action on alleged predatory gas prices

By Crystal Davis, Reporter, WIS-TV and WACH-TV

(Columbia) April 26, 2002 — South Carolina’s predatory gas price law is supposed to stop big corporations from selling gas below cost for more than 14 days a year. The South Carolina Small Business Chamber says they believe some of the big businesses aren’t playing fair.

T.A. Harman, a convenience store owner, says the big guys are definitely putting a damper on his sales at the pump, “I blame agencies for not enforcing the laws on the books. If Wal-Mart is breaking the law they need to do something about it.”

Harmon also says when businesses like Wal-Mart sell gas several cents cheaper than his it makes competing tough, especially when his profit margin is small to begin with.

Wal-Mart says the local gas station’s in their lots are owned by Murphy USA. Murphy’s reps were unavailable for comment.

Frank Knapp with the South Carolina Small Business Association wants more government action, “The concern is that the Consumer Affairs Department is not being as diligent on the issue as they should be.”

No one from the Consumer Affairs Department was available for comment. WIS was told the director of that department has said in the past they simply did not have the resources to adequately enforce the law.

Knapp says proving your case can be difficult, “If you file a complaint, you must document the price every day and then be able to show that they sold it below their cost.”

Customers like Lexington resident Gil Morris say they have mixed views on the low gas price controversy, “Gas prices are always too high and i don’t see why. I’d like someone to sit down and tell me why. It seems they go up and down and when they’re down it makes everybody happy.”

Another Lexington resident, Barbara Kelly says that she would rather stop at the smaller stores. “I don’t mind paying a few more cents.”

The Small Business Chamber is working with other organizations and hopes to sit down with the Consumer Affairs Department soon to hammer out a solution.

According to the American Petroleum Institute, the nationwide average price for all types of gasoline was essentially unchanged over the last week, averaging $1.45 per gallon as of April 15, 2002. This is 30 cents less than last May’s high of $1.75 per gallon, and 9 cents less than it was a year ago.

In inflation-adjusted 2002-dollar terms, today’s price is low compared to the historical 84-year record of recorded pump prices. In fact, motor gasoline prices are 45 percent lower than the 1981 record high of $2.64 per gallon. Between then and now, the real cost of motor gasoline to consumers fell by $1.19 per gallon. This decline can be attributed largely to lower crude costs, but manufacturing, distribution, and marketing costs are lower as well.


Original Arcticle:

Scroll to Top