Legislation Crafted To Erase Gas Price Ambiguity

By Dan Schere posted March 7th, 2019 on bethesdamagazine.com

Montgomery senator’s bill would require gas stations to prominently post credit card prices

A Shell gas station on Rockville Pike

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For the third year in a row, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan is attempting to get the state legislature to pass a bill that would require gas stations to clearly display the highest price for a gallon of fuel, which is often the price for customers who use a credit card.

The “Gas Price Clarity Act” is scheduled for a Friday hearing in the senate Finance Committee, where it has previously died.

Under current law, gas stations must only display the lower rate, usually the cash price, according to the state comptroller’s office.

Kagan’s office estimates that three-quarters of consumers use a credit card when filling up the tank. Gas prices are regulated by the state comptroller’s office.

“Drivers feel ripped-off when the price they are charged is higher than the price they saw when pulling up to a pump,” Kagan, who represents parts of Rockville and Gaithersburg, wrote in a news release. “This bill will put an end to this ‘bait and switch’ deception while having no impact on gas station owners who are already advertising honestly.

Kagan said that she felt optimistic her bill would pass this year because of a new crop of 18 senators who were elected last fall.

“There is a more progressive and more consumer-oriented bunch of senators now,” she said. “Sometimes with having a new chair and a new vice chair, things change.”

Kagan said Maryland is one of about 10 states that allow gas stations to charge a separate cash and credit price, and while she doesn’t object to that practice, she has an issue with the “bait and switch” tactic she said gas stations employ by more prominently displaying the cash price.

Motorists’ frustration with seeing a different price than they pay at the pump is common with her constituents, she said.

“When you’re at a town hall meeting, everyone gets it,” she said.

Kagan’s bill has received an endorsement from Attorney General Brian Frosh, as well as Eric Friedman, the director of the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection.

“What you want to make sure of is if there are three gas stations on the same corner, that they’re all advertising the same way and no one’s being fooled,” Friedman said. “This is designed to keep things from being misleading.”.

Friedman, whose office handles other consumer aspects of gas stations in the county such as licensing auto repair shops, said customers shouldn’t have to “worry about reading the fine print,” when they get gas.

The credit card price, he said, is typically higher than the cash price because the merchant must pay a processing fee.

As featured on bethesdamagazine.com