As gas prices continue to hover above $4 per gallon, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is warning retailers against price gouging or fixing.
"We will not tolerate unscrupulous behavior that violates Michigan law when it comes to gouging and price fixing," Schuette said. "Gas retailers are warned: we are watching and will not hesitate to take action if you hurt consumers and break Michigan law."
Schuette says his office is monitoring the balance of wholesale and retail prices and profit margins statewide. His office is also taking in complaints about individual stations. Investigations take place "any time there is evidence that state law has been violated for gouging or price fixing."
Under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, a retailers may not charge a price that is "grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold."
According to Schuette, retailers are free to "independently determine" what they should charge for a gallon of gas. Generally, stations close together price match, which would explain why the cost of gas seems to rise or fall at the same time. Explicit, actual agreements to raise or lower prices together is illegal under state and federal antitrust law, however court decisions have held that gas station retailers may respond to price changes by "matching" other retailers.
Last year, five Michigan gas station owners were convicted for price gouging. Schuette's office has also entered into "compliance agreements" with stations which requires them to be monitored after the reportedly spiked prices well above the statewide average on a certain day or after severe weather.
If drivers become aware of direct evidence of a conspiracy between companies or have evidence of a retailer price gouging, they are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 877-765-8388. You can also file an online complaint by clicking here.
Michigan's gas prices are still second highest in the country with the statewide average sitting at $4.22 per gallon. AAA is reporting that gas prices are expected to go down statewide after repairs were made at the refinery in Illinois.