Rumors, high prices spark fears of gouging

By Terry Scruton, "Land Line Now" senior correspondent | Thursday, September 01, 2005

Rumors, rationing and high fuel prices have lead to fears of price gouging in many areas across the country.

In Atlanta, prices surged toward the $6 per gallon mark for gasoline, prompting Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue to issue an executive order to protect consumers from price gouging.

In Florida, a bogus e-mail claiming that Florida's gas stations would be shut down because supplies were cut off sparked a run at the pumps and left at least one station dry. Similar e-mail rumors were also circulating in South Carolina and other areas.

The AAA warned on its Web site Thursday, Sept. 1, that panic buying - rushing to the pumps over rumors of supply outages - is also driving up prices in some parts of the country.

Some stations in the southeast were beginning to ration fuel, particularly diesel, limiting trucks to 50 or 100 gallons at a time. Most retailers maintain that they have no choice, because they are receiving limited amounts of fuel from their suppliers.

Tom Liutkus, director of public relations for TravelCenters of America told Land Line that TA and other retailers are stuck with what they get from the distributors for the time being.

"I'm not aware of any alternative source of fueling at this point," he said.

All of these elements have come together and prompted further fears that oil companies were intentionally withholding fuel to further drive up prices.

President Bush addressed the nation on Wednesday, Aug. 31, urging consumers to conserve gasoline and warning oil companies and gas station owners that there would be heavy consequences for price gouging.

Meanwhile, state attorneys general from across the country - including Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Indiana - are urging consumers to contact their offices and report any instances of suspected price gouging.

In Missouri, Gov. Matt Blunt specifically directed state Attorney General Jay Nixon to investigate recent increases at the pump.

"We have seen price gouging in our state before, and I will not permit businesses to reap unjustified profits by using a natural disaster as an excuse to gouge customers," Blunt said in a written statement.

For a full list of state attorney general offices and contact information, visit the National Association of Attorneys General online at

The U.S. Department of Energy also has a price watch Web site set up at where consumers can report suspected price gouging.