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ALBANY, N.Y.--Fifteen gas stations in New York state, including three controlled by major oil companies, have been fined $63,500 for increasing prices 25 percent or more after Hurricane Katrina, according to an Associated Press report about the case pursued vigilantly by State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's office.
Spitzer investigated 80 gas stations following complaints by consumers of prices immediately after Katrina. While the 15 gas stations fined represent the more serious cases, investigations against other retailers reportedly continue.
According to a report by the state Deputy Attorney General Martin Mack, a subsidiary of Getty Oil Co. increased its price at a Binghamton, N.Y.-area station from $2.65 per gallon before Aug. 29 to $3.52 after Aug. 29;. BP Amoco increased the price at a Bronx, N.Y. station from $2.79 per gallon to $3.51 after Aug. 29; Lukoil Co increased the price at its Bronx, N.Y. station to $3.49 per gallon from $2.79. Other prices were set by regional dealers or gas station owners. In Westchester County, Hilltop Service Station in Shrub Oak, N.Y. increased its price from $2.69 a gallon to $4 a gallon.
The companies were fined under the state's business law. Since there is no specific state crime against price gouging, the fines were civil actions, Mack told the Associated Press.
"When disaster strikes, state law requires that price increases be linked directly and proportionately to increased costs," Spitzer said in a statement. "This investigation has found numerous instances of unwarranted price increases. In fact, many retailers appear to have used the disaster as an excuse to gouge consumers."