For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Bob Cooper
Date: November 9, 2005
Wasden Expands Gas Pricing Inquiry
(Boise) - Attorney General Lawrence Wasden announced he is expanding his inquiry into retail gasoline prices. Wasden intends to examine why margins between retail and wholesale prices in Idaho have been growing while retail prices have been declining.
“As every Idahoan knows from their trips to the pump, retail prices have been moving slowly downward since post-Katrina prices peaked in early September,” Attorney General Wasden said. Consumers may not know that margins between retail and wholesale prices have shot upward during the same period. “Idaho consumers deserve to know if there is an economically sound explanation for this margin pattern, or if they are being taken advantage of in violation of Idaho law,” Wasden said.
Over the past month, Attorney General Wasden’s office has been gathering gas price information from the federal government, private information services, and Idaho retailers for several weeks as part of an inquiry triggered under Idaho law after President Bush and Governor Kempthorne in September each issued emergency declarations for Idaho. Once an emergency has been declared, Idaho consumer protection laws authorize the Attorney General to investigate fuel prices to determine if fuel was sold to consumers “at an exorbitant or excessive price” during the emergency period.
Wasden explained that general non-retailer specific gasoline pricing information gathered by his office indicates that average margins for regular unleaded gas have nearly tripled between the first full week in September and the end of October. The margin has been growing from nearly 16 cents per gallon to slightly more than 42 cents per gallon while average retail prices have decreased during the same period by approximately 18 cents. Wasden said the higher post-Katrina margins contrast with margins of about 5.3 cents per gallon for the month prior to Hurricane Katrina hitting land on August 29.
“We know retail prices increased right after Katrina and margins continued to grow while retail prices have been dropping. However, this does not necessarily mean price-gouging has occurred,” Attorney General Wasden said. “We cannot assume that price-gouging is occurring in all instances. This would not be fair to either retailers or the public.”
“My office will gather the economically relevant facts, assess those facts objectively, and reach conclusions in a professional and straightforward manner,” Attorney General Wasden said.
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