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Archive for Sunday, September 16, 2001

Four gas stations face penalties for raising prices

September 16, 2001

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— Four service stations that raised gasoline prices after Tuesday's terrorist attacks have been sued by Johnson County prosecutors.

The owners of the stores in Shawnee, Prairie Village, DeSoto and Overland Park were sued Friday under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act. They face fines of up to $10,000 for each violation.

Investigators found the four stations were charging $4.75 to $5.63 for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline.

"There was absolutely no reason or excuse for these stations to charge such exorbitant prices," Dist. Atty. Paul Morrison said.

Morrison's office has received more than 300 calls from consumers concerned about high gas prices, he said.

The lawsuits filed Friday in Johnson County District Court allege that the stations "took advantage of the unfounded fears" of consumers.

"There was no shortage of oil. These stations exploited the most horrific situation in our history, apparently to line their pockets," Morrison said.

The lawsuits were filed against the Texaco Star Mart, 11019 W. 75th St., Shawnee, and Texaco Food Mart, 7720 State Line Road, Prairie Village, both operated by Alpha Petroleum Co.; and the Meiners Market and Conoco stores at 34200 Commerce Drive in DeSoto and 12560 Quivira Road, Overland Park.

In a statement released by attorney Robb Edmonds, the co-owner of two of the stores, John Meiners, said the company had been trying to correct things since Tuesday night.

"And we will continue to do what we can to make things right," he said.

John Meiners is not the owner of the Meiners grocery stores in Kansas City.

The owners of the two other stations could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuits filed by Morrison's office came one day after Cass County prosecutors charged the Quikshop Conoco in Peculiar and the Charles R. Wood Oil Co. near Harrisonville with price gouging.

Kansas Atty. Gen. Carla Stovall on Thursday also offered a settlement agreement to gas stations that increased prices.

Stovall announced the program for about 140 Kansas stores that sold gas or diesel fuel to customers at $2.49 or more per gallon. Retailers must enter into the agreement on or before Sept. 28 or they could face civil litigation with penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

Retailers also must agree to refund customers the amount of the price increase. Customers without receipts could qualify for a repayment if they sign a refund statement stating the amount and approximate time of the purchase.

Each retail location also must agree to refrain from future pricing violations and pay $250 in fees and an additional $750 to a state fund.

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