New bill aims to end deceptive prices at the pump

Posted By: Nicole Cousins

A Nebraska senator says a local gas station chain’s deceptive pricing schemes are hurting customers and damaging the reputation of Nebraska’s other fill up centers.

Senator John McCollister introduced a new bill Tuesday that would stop the practice, after he says he was fooled firsthand.

"I stopped at a location with a very competitive price,” McCollister said during his opening statements in front of the Agriculture Committee. “When I saw the line of cars just behind two pumps and the other stations had very high prices, my good mood turned into anger."

Fat Dogs, Owned by Wilkinson Companies out of North Platte, was specifically named during the committee hearing.

Its five locations are known for having a sign showing cheap gas prices, but those prices are only valid at 2 pumps.

The rest, according to testifiers, can be up to 70 cents higher per gallon.

"Such deceptive practices confuse motorists resulting in wasteful consumer spending and result in ill feelings towards the retailer, the local community and our state," AAA spokeswoman Rose White said.

Several gas service companies agree that more regulation is needed.

They say its especially important along I–80 where most Fat Dogs pumps are located, and where thousands of tourists and truckers drive every year.

Jim Hegarty, CEO of the regional Better Business Bureau that overlooks Nebraska, said he’s received complaints regarding deceptive gas prices since 2009.

"I believe that most of these complaints we receive come from people who do not reside in the state of Nebraska," he said.

Hegarty said that his agency hasn’t received complaints from other states they oversee, but are looking into whether those states have legislation against deceptive prices on petroleum.

Dan O’Neill, who owns several Kwik Stops in Nebraska, says the competition doesn’t hurt his sales, but it could if people stop driving through the state.

“Where it will effect me long term, is I depend on tourism dollars,” he said. “That’s very important in North Platte.”

Sapp Brothers CEO Don Quinn also spoke out. He said his other locations in 7 other states don’t have to compete with this type of scheme.

"We think it just gives this whole state of Nebraska, not just petroleum marketers, a black eye," Quinn said.

We reached out to Fat Dogs and Wilkinson Companies.

They didn’t return any of our calls.