Thiele Bill Targets Gas Pricing

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New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. is again taking aim at what he says is unfair gasoline practices. In a release this week, Mr. Thiele announced that the Assembly had passed legislation he sponsored that would prohibit the practice of zone pricing based on geographical location. Senator Kenneth P. LaValle is sponsoring similar legislation in the Senate.

“Zone pricing” refers to the establishment of price differences based on the location of the retail outlet in the relevant geographic market, without regard to the posted terminal price and any additional costs where the effect is to injure competition.

In 2008, New York State passed the first law in the country to outlaw the practice of gasoline zone pricing. Since that time, however, compliance has been sporadic and enforcement has been difficult. Mr. Thiele’s bill, which passed by a vote of 130-15, would enact the recommendations of the state attorney general to outlaw this practice. It clearly defines the “relevant geographic market” and addresses the issue of “arbitrary” price differences. The weak definition of these terms in current law, among others, has resulted in no enforcement actions being brought forth pursuant to the zone pricing law since its enactment.

Zone pricing occurs in many areas across the state, and the South Fork of Long Island has been an area where consumers have been significantly affected by the practice, Mr. Thiele said in a release.

“Big oil companies have historically charged higher prices on the South Fork, as well as other areas such as Westchester County and Utica without regard to cost. It’s clear consumers on the South Fork need further protection from this unfair business practice,” he said. “This legislation is necessary to strengthen the zone pricing law by correcting several flaws which currently preclude effective enforcement by the New York state attorney general.”

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