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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Iowa station owners have few regulations to prevent them from cheating customers on the quality of gas they buy, according to the Des Moines Sunday Register .
While competition for fuel profit increases, Iowa has continued to do less than other states in assuring that customers get the gas they’re paying for at the pump, the newspaper reported.
Other states are conducting regular fuel tests to deter deceptive tactics and protect consumers from buying the wrong gas, which can hurt a car’s mileage and performance, the Des Moines Sunday Register reported.
"It’s absolutely a deterrent," Ron Hayes, administrator of Missouri’s fuel-quality program, told the Des Moines Sunday Register . "If there is a chance to misrepresent the product without getting caught, there is an incentive to cheat. Those who can undercut their competition can make more money."
State law requires Iowa’s Weights and Measures Bureau, part of the Iowa Department of Agriculture, to test fuel quality on behalf of Iowans. However, a recent state audit showed that the bureau has not performed the laboratory tests for years, the newspaper reported.
Instead, state inspectors have developed an agreement with Missouri to test fuel at no cost to Iowa, the Des Moines Sunday Register reported.
The newspaper reported that only a tiny fraction of Iowa’s 33,000 gas pumps at 2,800 service stations are getting tested.
A budget request filed recently by the bureau showed that the annual number of tests was about 50 and "only when a special investigation is under way," the Des Moines Sunday Register reported.
"Iowa currently has virtually no basic fuel quality program," the bureau’s request said.
Authorities in other states said station owners have been mislabeling pumps or putting cheaper fuel in storage tanks intended for higher-priced gas. And, there’s more incentive to mislead customers as gas prices soar.
"Any time gas prices go up, we receive more complaints," Tim Tyson, who heads Kansas’ weights and measures department, told the Des Moines Sunday Register .
Iowa has six inspectors who visit gas retailers statewide to assure state laws are followed and fuel is properly labeled, he added.
The newspaper reported it found that inspectors know of other examples of fuel misdeeds despite the small amount testing that’s conducted.