Fact Finders: Tackling viewer question about gas price gouging

“When it becomes a real issue is when you know, it’s a disaster like a tornado, flood, and ice storm.”
Our Fact Finders question tonight; Is it ok for gas stations to raise prices -- before they empty the tanks of less expensive pre-event gasoline?
Published: Mar. 2, 2022 at 9:52 PM CST
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - A snow-related state of emergency ends in just a couple of hours in Arkansas. During an emergency in The Natural State, businesses are limited to a 10% increase in certain consumer goods, including gasoline.

That brings us to our Fact Finders viewer question tonight; “Is it ok for gas stations to raise prices before they empty the tanks of less expensive pre-event gasoline? My friend says this is illegal price gouging.

This question comes from a Missouri viewer. It relates to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. He’s wondering if gas stations filled their underground tanks before the invasion and then didn’t sell all the gas they bought at a cheaper price, is it price gouging to raise the price right after war breaks out?

The Missouri Attorney General’s Office told KY3 price gouging is when a merchant, “takes advantage of extreme temporary conditions to charge excessive prices or does so for necessities within a disaster area.”

Springfield attorney Grant Rahmeyer of Rah Law doesn’t believe the recent hike of 15 to 20 cents after the war started meets Missouri’s definition of price gouging.

“When it becomes a real issue is when you know, it’s a disaster like a tornado, flood, and ice storm like here and everyone’s rushing to get gas and they just spike the prices up by maybe 20% - 50%. That’s when I think the Attorney General is gonna get involved and say, Wait a minute, they are taking advantage of a disaster,” explained Rahmeyer.

Meantime, The Attorney General’s Office told us, “During an emergency, businesses are limited to a 10% increase in certain consumer goods, including gasoline. They cannot simply raise the price because demand is high and supply is low. The purpose of the statute is to keep consumer goods and services affordable so that people are less inclined to hoard goods and can still buy them at affordable prices. For those who violate a price-gouging law, the penalty is $10,000 per unit sold.”

As an example, gas would’ve needed to jump from 3 dollars a gallon to 3.30 minimum during the declared emergency to meet the price gouging definition.

So, on this question; “Is it ok for gas stations to raise prices before they empty the tanks of less expensive pre-event gasoline?” We’re going to say YES. But, that’s just for THIS case related to Ukraine.

If you suspect price gouging, you can report it online in Missouri here and in Arkansas here. You can also report it to the Better Business Bureau.

To report a correction or typo, please email digitalnews@ky3.com

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