Friday, August 1, 2008

Oil Company Cheating Consumers at Houston, Texas Gas Pumps

What are some of the first thoughts that come to your mind when you think about the prices you are paying at the gas pump these days? I imagine that many of your choice words cannot be written on this blog without sacrificing my professionalism. Would your frustrations be heightened if you discovered that an oil company was cheating you out of some of the expensive gas for which you were paying? Unfortunately, it was discovered recently that Petroleum Wholesale has been cheating consumers at their Sunmart gas pumps, with many of the violations occurring in the Houston area.

An investigation by the Texas Department of Agriculture discovered that the pumps at Sunmart had been calibrated to dispense less fuel than required. I’m curious … which board member decided that was a good idea at the last corporate meeting – “I know … let’s withhold some gas from our valued customers. It’s not like they are counting every drop of every gallon these days. I’m sure no one will notice.” With attention focused on fuel prices more than nearly any other topic in this country, this probably was not the wisest time to experiment with trickery at the pumps.

The lawsuit filed against Petroleum Wholesale accuses the company of violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act by deliberating rigging the gas pumps. So, what happens now … a slap on the wrist? Not even close. Each violation carries a potential fine of $20,000. With 985 pumps across the state, the company is looking at nearly $20 million a day in penalties. And, that’s if each pump is used only once! As Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said, Petroleum Wholesale is “facing a potential financial death penalty.”

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys in our Austin, Houston, and San Antonio offices who specialize in business and commercial litigation. If you are involved in such a dispute, please contact us and let’s discuss your situation.

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