Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General
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Charlotte Gomer, Director of Communication
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ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING FILES PRICE GOUGING LAWSUIT
~ Springfield-based Interstate Fuel allegedly raised its gasoline prices by as much as 34% after Colonial Pipeline shutdown ~
RICHMOND – Attorney General Mark R. Herring has filed suit against Springfield-based Tahir and Sons LLC d/b/a Interstate Fuel LLC for alleged violations of the Virginia Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act. Attorney General Herring's lawsuit relates to allegations that the business charged unconscionable prices on gasoline, a necessary good, after a state of emergency was declared in May, in response to the temporary shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, which supplies gasoline and other petroleum-based products to a significant part of the United States east coast. Attorney General Herring has taken two other enforcement actions against price gouging this year following the state of emergency declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The unfortunate reality is that bad actors will take advantage of times of crises to unreasonably increase prices for necessary goods, like gasoline,” said Attorney General Herring. "During a disaster or crisis, Virginians should never have to worry about whether they are paying a fair price for something they truly need. Price gouging will never be tolerated in the Commonwealth and my Consumer Protection Section will take swift action whenever businesses are taking advantage of consumers.”
Attorney General Herring's Complaint alleges that, during the period from May 1, 2021 to May 10, 2021, Interstate Fuel sold regular unleaded fuel at a steady average daily price of about $2.99 per gallon. On about May 11, 2021, the Defendant's average daily price of the same gasoline rose to $3.629, and then again rose to $3.670 during the period from May 12, 2021 to May 14, 2021, increases of 21.37% and 22.74% respectively. Attorney General Herring further alleges that the defendant's actual prices rose at least as high as $3.989 on or around the morning of May 13, 2021, an increase of 33.4% above what the business was charging during the ten days before the emergency was declared. The suit claims that these price increases were not attributable to additional costs incurred by the business in connection with the sale of gasoline, nor were they due to increases in costs imposed by its source.
The Virginia Post-Disaster Anti Price Gouging Act prohibits businesses from charging unconscionable prices on necessary goods during a time of disaster. Among other factors that can be considered in determining whether a price is "unconscionable” is whether it grossly exceeds the price charged for the same or similar goods during the 10 days immediately prior to the time of disaster. A violation of Virginia's price gouging law is also a violation of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.
The lawsuit, filed with the Fairfax County Circuit Court, requests that the court, among other things, enjoin the illegal practices, and award restitution to affected consumer victims.
During Governor Northam's state of emergency that was issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Virginia Attorney General's Office has received more than 500 complaints and e-mails alleging possible price gouging activity and has sent more than 150 investigative letters to businesses. Investigation of these complaints has largely revealed that many price increases occurred further up the supply chain with manufacturers or distributors that were beyond the reach of the state's price gouging laws, and this prompted Attorney General Herring to successfully seek amendments to the state's price gouging law during the 2020 General Assembly special session.
Additionally, in April 2020, Attorney General Herring led a national effort to address price gouging in the PPE supply chain, urging 3M as one of the largest manufacturers of PPE, particularly masks, to do more to address price gouging within its supply and distribution chains that was causing hospitals and healthcare providers to pay exorbitant prices for PPE.
If a Virginia consumer suspects they are a victim of price gouging, they can call the Consumer Protection Hotline or download a complaint form from the Attorney General's website and submit it in-person, by mail, or by fax. Consumers are encouraged to keep any relevant documentation and submit copies with their complaint. If consumers believe they are a victim of price gouging specific to motor fuel they should file complaints with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Consumers can contact Attorney General Herring's Consumer Protection Section for information or to file a complaint:
By phone: (800) 552-9963
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