The County Should Take Action On Deceptive Gas Pricing

The price of gas is a source of ire for nearly every political pundit, politician and talking head out there. As the prices rise and fall — sometimes arbitrarily, it seems — we’re often left in the lurch as our wallets fight to keep up with prices on the sign. The cost of gas varies from day to day, sometimes hour to hour, and even from community to community.

But while the tumultuous ups and downs of a commodity market might be irksome, there is nothing more annoying than pulling into the gas station and finding that the price you read on the sign is not the actual price at the pump — at least not for those who have joined the cashless society.

This week, the Palm Beach County Commission pushed up its timetable to take action on this issue, perhaps mandating more transparency in gas pricing. This is a much-needed regulation to help protect consumers, especially if long-discussed state laws do not.

With constantly changing prices, many often rely on signs posted outside gas stations to know we’re getting the best price. But often, the prices on the sign don’t match what we see at the pump. For years now, gas stations have gotten away with displaying one price to motorists, while charging another at the pump. The only indication of the price difference is a caveat — often printed too small to see — that the advertised price is for cash buyers only; the vast majority of buyers (credit and debit card users) must pay a higher price.

Though not all businesses use this practice, many do. They bank on the fact that once you’ve pulled up to a pump, gotten out of your car, unhooked the cap and started the process, you won’t want to drive elsewhere to save a few cents.

With the chance that the State of Florida could enact laws that would bar governments from putting in new provisions to regulate gas stations, it’s important that the county act now to protect consumers. If not, the community might miss its chance to put an end to these shady, non-transparent practices.