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PORTLAND, Ore. -- BP Products North America and more than 30 independent Oregon-based retailers are coming under fire for debit card transaction fees. They were recently named in a court complaint alleging that Arco and AM-PM Minimarket stations fraudulently applied such fees without posting sufficient signs alerting customers to those fees.
The complaint was filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Dec. 30. Lawyer Steven Scharfstein is named as the plaintiff in the case, which seeks to create a class out of Oregon customers who've paid the fees at any of the 50 gas stations in the past year. The complaint is seeking a judge's approval to become a class action, according to The Oregonian.
"In many cases, you don't find out about the charges until you have walked in to pay and they've already put the gas in the car," said David Sugerman, a Portland lawyer representing Scharfstein. "And now, with prices so high, it's not like you have much choice. You were pulled in" by that lower posted price, he said. "It's sort of a gotcha."
Sugerman found the fees ranged from 35 cents to 45 cents for each transaction, the news report said.
Some gas stations may have small stickers on the pumps stating the fees; however, Sugerman told the news outlet his case maintains that BP and its associated retailers must be more "clear and conspicuous" in alerting customers of all additional charges on their street signs and per-gallon price signs.
"If the pump says $3.50 a gallon and you buy five gallons and you go in and the price is different than $17.50, it's illegal," he said.
According to the report, Oregon laws state that if the lowest price is only available under certain conditions, such as using cash vs. a debit card, than that must be clear on street signs and at the gas pump. The law also says the price difference must be noted on the street sign in a font at least one-third the size of the printed cash price and be "equally visible to a customer or potential customer."