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PHILADELPHIA – A class-action lawsuit filed last week accuses Sunoco Inc. of running a deceptive promotional program whereby consumers are allegedly promised they can use gift cards “just as cash.”
According to the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Sunoco failed to disclose that customers had to pay higher debit and credit card prices when purchasing gasoline. Some states have outlawed the practice of charging more money when paying with a debit or credit card, but others allow gas stations to offer a “discount” for paying cash, while some states have no restrictions whatsoever.
According to Top Class Actions, plaintiff Howard Stern used Sunoco gift cards with the belief he could use it “at any Sunoco station and [that it] is good for purchase at every Sunoco -- just like cash.” After using Sunoco gift cards several times, Stern -– who is not related to the popular satellite radio morning show personality -– checked his receipts and reportedly discovered he was paying the price for fuel that credit card users must pay.
Stern seeks to represent a class of “all persons who, in the United States, were denied the benefits of Sunoco’s public gift card program,” the legal news source reported. The lawsuit seeks damages on a number of counts, including New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud and Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act.
Stern is also seeking an injunction that would require Sunoco to modify its system so that gift card users can take advantage of the cash price for gasoline purchased at the company’s stations.
Sunoco has yet to file an official response.
Philadelphia-based Sunoco Inc. is a division of Energy Transfer Partners LP.