Concerns about whether drivers in Michigan are getting what they pay
for at the fuel pump has spurred the state’s House to unanimously approve a
bill that would bring hefty fines on fuel stations that short customers.
The bill – HB4502 – now heads to the Senate for further consideration.
The bill was introduced last year before the rash of hurricanes hit the
Gulf Coast. However, fuel prices that approached $3 per gallon in the state
following the storms caused many drivers to question whether they were getting
what they paid for.
Supporters said the bill was intended to target station owners who
intentionally mislead customers.
“I wanted to make sure this legislation strongly targeted those
stations that are intentionally defrauding the public,” Rep. Richard Ball, R-Bennington Township, said in a written statement. “We understand that occasionally pumps
malfunction or a mistake is made, but those stations that are adjusting their
pumps at the expense of the customers should be severely punished.”
Rep. Fran Amos, R-Waterford, said the bill would offer customers an
added layer of protection.
“Since there is no way for a customer to actually see how much (fuel)
they are getting or test the grade themselves, it is important they can trust
the station to give them what they are paying for,” Amos said in a written
statement. “As with any public trust, those that purposely abuse it should be
Existing Michigan rules limit the fines for first-offense quantity
violations to between $50 and $1,000.
The measure would make station owners who intentionally short customers
pay a civil fine of $5,000 for a first offense. A second offense would cost
stations $10,000, and a third offense would carry a $25,000 fine.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture would be given authority to shut
down a station’s pumps until the problem is corrected. The department would be
required to annually inspect stations with three or more intentional violations.
Consumers in Michigan who believe they’ve been bilked at the pump
should call the state’s Department of Agriculture hot line at 1-800-MDA-FUEL