A.G. Schneiderman Undertakes Comprehensive Review Behind Rising Gas Prices In Central NY
SYRACUSE - Amid sky-high prices at the pump for Syracuse area residents, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office is initiating a comprehensive review on the rising cost of gasoline in Central New York. With prices at the pump leading to an increase in consumer complaints to the Attorney General's office, Schneiderman said he would compile data on prices being charged in the area, and seek to determine the causes behind the recent increase. Schneiderman cautioned that there may not be wrongdoing behind the price spikes, but said that if there is, he will pursue all appropriate remedies to crack down on it.
"Drivers across Central New York are getting slammed at the gas pump, and have a right to know not only how gas prices are determined, but whether they're being taken advantage of," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "On behalf of consumers, my office wants to make sure drivers' hard-earned dollars are protected and that they are being charged fairly at gas stations. While we cannot guarantee that there is wrongdoing behind the high prices, we can assure drivers that we will study the situation to try to determine what is behind these price spikes, and go after any violations if they exist."
According to the American Automobile Association, the current average price of regular gasoline in New York State is $3.74 compared to $2.94 at the same time period in 2010.
In Syracuse, the current average price is $3.67 compared to $2.93 this time last year. In addition, varying prices can be seen throughout the city of Syracuse.
For example, a gallon of gasoline costs $3.79 at a Fly Road gas station in East Syracuse but it costs $3.57 at a station on Buckley Road in North Syracuse, as of earlier this week.
In an effort to understand the recent retail price increases of gasoline in the area, Schneiderman said his study will focus on how the current market volatility determines the cost of gas for retailers and subsequently whether that cost is appropriately passed onto consumers at the gas pump. During disruptions in the oil market resulting from civil disorder, war, military action, and other abnormal events, those who sell gasoline are not allowed to take unfair advantage of consumers by charging grossly excessive prices. The goal of the Attorney General's study is to determine whether gas prices accurately reflect current market conditions or if there are unjustified price increases.
"At a time when the public is very skeptical about what goes on behind the scenes when determining gas prices, it is my responsibility to make sure that everyone involved in setting prices plays by the rules," said Attorney General Schneiderman.
The Attorney General's regional offices will gather pricing data from gas station retailers throughout the region, perform its review, and release any relevant findings in the coming months.
Good afternoon, I’m Eric Schneiderman, the New York State Attorney General. I’m joined here today by Ed Thompson. He’s the Assistant Attorney General in charge of our Syracuse office, and by Judy Malkin who is the AAG who is in charge of our consumer affairs work here in Syracuse and is working on one of the matters I’m going to discuss in detail today. This is my first real working visit to the office here since I was elected, and I’m really making an effort to meet with all of the lawyers who work in the Attorney General’s office and to use whatever modern systems we can to use the best technology to try to integrate our offices. So, you are going to be the clients of a great public law firm and I urge everyone to come in and make use of the office in Syracuse, as the other offices around the state. We’re looking forward to proving more seamless cooperation between the offices than we’ve seen in the past. The technology is really there. When I started practicing law, everyone had to be in the same office to produce documents, when I finished, I’d be working on a brief in my office in New York City where a guy in Washington was adding a section, someone else in Maimi was adding a section, we aspire to be able to be as efficient and effective as possible and to build the best public law firm in the country. As I travel around the state, I’m still hearing the same sense of complaints that I heard during the 18 months I travelled around in the campaign. Folks are [inaudible] the system work for them in the lead up to the mortgage backed securities bubble and don’t feel that they really can rely on the state government right now, so we’re out to change that. We changed that by policing the bad actors so that the good actors can prosper. The same thing applies to the private sector. Our first big initiative, in fact, involves both public and private sectors. It’s to set up a taxpayer protection unit and we’re providing more resources and more guidance to our attorneys all around the state to aggressively enforce New York’s new False Claims Act. This is the strongest law against fraud against the government that any state has. We have the strongest false claims act in the country. It gives us the power to get triple damages in civil penalties against anyone who rips off the government. Government contractors, officials who submit false documents, and we’re going to make sure that in these economic hard times when it’s such a tough budget coming out of Albany, that New Yorkers know, we’re going after every tax dollar. Every tax dollar we save is another dollar for schools, for health care for seniors, for all the things that people need. And in the private sector we are digging in and looking at some of the causes of the financial collapse that happened a couple of years ago but we’re also closer to home, looking at the particular kinds of scams that come up during economic hard times. There are a lot of folks who seek to take advantage of the vulnerable. People who offer phony debt relief services, people who offer to fix your mortgage and only thing they are fixing is you. Today we’re here because we’ve just announced that we’re starting a state-wide investigation on the issue of price gouging in the gasoline industry. We know that gas prices are hitting all time highs. I think yesterday crude oil closed at the highest level since 2008. And as you can see from this chart prices in Syracuse have just gone through the roof. Now we understand that most retailers are honest business people who just have to pay more for oil so they just charge more for gasoline, but we know from prior experience that there are some folks who add a lot more on when the public is used to the prices going up, people can engage in price gouging. We have a New York State statute in the general business law that prohibits price gouging. It prohibits people from adding on unreasonable extra charges and we have now initiated our inquiry. We’ve started with 130 retailers across the state, sampling the prices trying to understand why there are wide variations within the same communities. I know that here they have determined that a station on Fly rd was charging $3.79 while a station on Buckley Rd in North Syracuse was only charging $3.57 on the exact same day. There are places where they are raising the prices several times in the course of the day. So, we’re conducting an investigation to make sure, as we did after other disasters, Katrina, the Gulf oil spill, that there aren’t unscrupulous actors trying to get a competitive advantage over honest business men and women by engaging in price gouging. And that is something we know is important to folks. I’m going to be here a lot and we’re looking forward to working with my colleagues who are meeting in the office downstairs. A lot of exciting activity going on here, a great group of lawyers and you have my commitment that, as Attorney General, I’m going to make and extra effort to make sure that all parts of the State feel included. That everyone feels that the peoples lawyers are the lawyers for all the people and I’m very proud to be here today with my colleagues, and now can take any questions.