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Archive for Saturday, September 22, 2001

Gasoline price increases bring lawsuit

September 22, 2001

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A Leavenworth oil company that increased fuel prices at its northeast Kansas gas stations after last week's terrorist attacks says it will provide refunds to customers who paid the $2.49 price.

But that might not be enough for Charles R. Wood Oil Co. Inc. to settle a lawsuit filed by Shawnee County Dist. Atty. Robert Hecht, who has accused the company of extending its price increases to three Topeka gas stations.

Hecht is seeking a $5,000 civil penalty from Wood Oil for each time it sold fuel at a raised price after the attacks. He said one of the three stations raised its price to $4 per gallon of gasoline and the other two raised prices to $2.49 per gallon.

To avoid being sued under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act, Hecht said, retailers were required to refund the money of those who purchased gas at the higher prices, contribute $500 per station to the United Way's September 11th Fund and pay a $500 civil penalty.

Mike Wood, president of Wood Oil, apologized to customers in an official response that will be published Sunday in the Leavenworth Times.

"As it turns out, the decision to raise the price of gas to $2.49 last Tuesday was not a good one," Wood said. "I can see that now, but based on the information that was coming across our wire last Tuesday, the decision was not nearly as clear."

Wood referred to bulletins that came to his office Sept. 11, notifying the company that distribution pipelines were closing and that gasoline supplies would be limited. He said he also heard reports from around the country that gas prices were rising as high as $8 a gallon.

"Based on all of this, we had to make a decision whether to just let the stores run out of fuel or to raise the price and try to slow down the sales," Wood said.

Hecht said the price increases constitute unconscionable acts in violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act because prices were raised without the stations having been resupplied by a wholesaler at a higher price.

Elsewhere in the region, Johnson County filed lawsuits against four stations that raised gas prices after the attacks.

In Cass County, prosecutors charged the Quikshop Conoco in Peculiar and the Charles R. Wood Oil Co. near Harrisonville with price gouging.

Douglas County Dist. Atty. Christine Kenney could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon regarding whether she would pursue a lawsuit against a Lawrence retailer who charged $5.62 a gallon for gasoline last Tuesday.




The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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