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"Gas Gouging" Web Site Makes Gas Stations Into Scapegoats, says Group
Santa Monica, CA -- The Federal Department of Energy is proudly pointing to its website, "gaswatch.energy.gov," that allows consumers to report "price gouging" by gasoline stations as pump prices rise, according to AAA figures, to nearly $3.30 in California for a gallon of regular gas. This is a deception that misplaces blame on retailers and fools consumers into thinking the government will do something about it, said the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization.

"Consumers should treat this even more harshly than they did the government's dim idea of sending every taxpayer a $100 so-called gasoline rebate -- paid from taxpayer funds, not oil company profit," said Judy Dugan of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.

The Department of Energy, asked Wednesday how many gouging prosecutions resulted from last year's 35,000 consumer reports, could not name one. It's a state issue and "we don't track that," a spokesman told FTCR. "I have no idea."

There is no federal anti-gouging law and many state laws require a declaration of emergency to go into effect, noted FTCR, so the online consumer reports forwarded by the Energy Department to states would go straight to the delete basket.

"Just as important," said Dugan, "turning gas station owners into the crooks of this story is a diversion akin to what a magician does when he says 'Watch this hand' during a rabbit trick. Stations are nearly without exception being scapegoated."

Station owners, both chain and independent, are forced to pass on suppliers' high prices and face stiff local competition, said FTCR. Some owners have said they are selling at a loss to stay competitive. "The Energy Department owes consumers an apology for wasting their time and pointing blame in the wrong direction," added Dugan.

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