August 4, 2008

Loophole Allows Higher Gas Prices for Credit Cards

By Tom Risen, Daily Press, Victorville, Calif.

Aug. 4--VICTORVILLE -- A growing number of gas station owners are using a loophole to charge one price for cash payment and another for credit cards, San Bernardino County officials said.

Though charging more for credit cards is illegal, some stations advertise cash as a discount, according to Angela Godwin, deputy commissioner and deputy sealer fo r t h e D e -- partment of Ag riculture, Weights and Measures.

" I t ' s i l l e -- gal for them t o ch a r g e more, but I'm not aware of any limits on h ow m u ch less they can charge if credit is set as the regular price," Godwin said. "This could be driven by the bu s i n e s s e s ' necessity to match rising c re d i t -- c a rd fees charged when a credit is used."

R o u g h l y 10 percent of s t at i o n s i n t h e c o u n t y u s e a l o o p -- hole to make using credit cards more expensive than cash payment, according to Steve MacKenzie, supervising agricultural standards officer for the San Bernardino County Department of Agriculture, Weights and Measures.

A Shell station at Palmdale Road and Park Avenue in Victorville advertises a cash price for gas that is 10 cents lower than the credit price. The station is charged 4 percent on every dollar that is spent with a credit card, said a cashier, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

"People complain about the fees all day long," she said. "That's why we have two signs outside and two signs on each pump."

Because the two prices are prominently displayed, Godwin said, it's not a violation.

"The main gas station that does this in the county is Valero, according to my inspectors," Godwin said. "Our number of gas complaints has gotten very high. We make sure that both prices are advertised on the main gas sign so that the customer knows what they're paying."

Any complaints can be reported to (800) 734-9459, Godwin said.


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