SEATTLE – Attorney General Rob McKenna said that his office is monitoring gas prices in Washington for any indication of anticompetitive conduct among petroleum retailers or suppliers.
“The Attorney General’s Office has not found any evidence so far of illegal activity among gasoline retailers or producers in Washington,” McKenna said. “If we do, we will take vigorous enforcement action.”
McKenna encouraged drivers to conserve gasoline and find alternatives to driving alone.
“The West Coast exceeds the national average for gasoline consumption,” he said. “Gas prices are influenced by the basic laws of supply and demand. When consumers form carpools or begin using public transportation, it reduces the demand and prices drop.”
For every mile traveled per person, public transportation uses about half of the fuel consumed by cars, and about a third of that used by sport utility vehicles and light trucks, according to the American Public Transportation Association.
The U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission sent a letter dated April 25 to attorneys general nationwide, seeking the states’ assistance in enforcing local laws. The letter states that Congress has asked the FTC to investigate whether businesses have manipulated gas prices to the detriment of consumers and to analyze prices in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The FTC is working to produce a final report to the Congress by May 19, 2006.
McKenna said he understands drivers’ concerns about rising gas prices.
“Gasoline is not a regulated commodity,” McKenna said. “Consequently, producers and retailers are free to charge whatever price they choose, so long as they do not conspire to fix prices or engage in unfair or deceptive business practices.”
The Attorney General’s Office has a long history of studying the oil industry and taking enforcement action when necessary. The office regularly monitors gas prices and provides information about market influences on its Web site.
The office has brought lawsuits against companies for price-fixing and anticompetitive mergers. The merger cases have focused on all segments of the market, from crude oil exploration to retail sales. In cases where competition might have been decreased, the Attorney General’s Office has required merging companies to sell assets to a more competitive buyer.
Last fall, the office agreed to assist with a national inquiry into the causes of escalating gas prices. Washington’s role included providing information about prices and market influences within the state.
Washington residents who have evidence of an antitrust violation involving gasoline retailers or suppliers should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office online and with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.
Alternatives to Driving Alone
- Commute Trip Reduction, http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/TDM/tripreduction: Includes information about buses, bicycling, walking, carpooling and Amtrak.
- Rideshare, www.rideshareonline.com or 888-814-1300. Find carpool or vanpool partners in Benton, Clallam, Franklin, Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Island, King, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, Spokane, Thurston, Whatcom, and Yakima counties.
- CarpoolMatchNW, www.carpoolmatchnw.org or call 360-69-MATCH. Find carpool or vanpool partners in Vancouver and Clark County.
Kristin Alexander, Public Information Officer, Attorney General’s Office, (206) 464-6432, firstname.lastname@example.org