High Gas Prices in California ‘Manipulated’ by Oil Refiners, Says Consumer Group

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High gas prices in California are being "manipulated" by oil refiners, a consumers' group believes.

The group, "Consumer Watchdog," presented its analysis to the California Attorney General today that it says proves the state's largest oil refiners have used "unprecedented price manipulation to keep California gasoline prices artificially high."

The group alleges that the oil refiners charge their branded gas stations higher prices — up to 30 cents more per gallon — than they charge unbranded and independent stations. The result, Consumer Watchdog says, artificially inflates gas prices across the state.

" California oil refiners are using their market power over their branded stations to force gasoline prices to consumers at the pump to rise at all gas stations," said Cody Rosenfield, co-author of the analysis, in a statement.

The consumer group's analysis determined that in Southern California, drivers here pay as much as an " unprecedented $1.30 per gallon" more for an average gallon of gas compared with the rest of the country.

The Los Angeles Times reports the pricing disparity could violate the law. It also reported that gas trade group Western States Petroleum Assn. pooh-poohed the consumer group's analysis.

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