NORFOLK, Va. — The skyrocketing prices at the gas pump are raising concerns over price gouging.
You may have already noticed fuel is more than $4 a gallon at some Hampton Roads gas stations. Holly Dalby of AAA Tidewater said she doesn’t expect prices to drop anytime soon.
“The highest price we’ve seen in the Hampton Roads area was $3.98 in July 2008, so we have reached that point," Dalby said. “It has been jumping faster than we have ever seen and unfortunately, AAA does not expect it to come down any time soon.”
So what do you do if you suspect some has stations may be taking advantage of consumers and hiking up the price at the pump?
Virginia has a law in place that stops gas stations from overcharging for fuel, but the Anti-Price Gouging Act only goes into effect during a state of emergency, and right now there isn’t one.
A spokesperson from the office of the attorney general said the office “has no authority to act against the rise in gas prices” right now.
Although the AG’s office is responsible for enforcing the law, it’s the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services who will investigate complaints.
You can submit a price-gouging complaint with this form, but you need to fill in some basic details about yourself and the gas station you’re concerned about. You also need the know the type of fuel, the grade, how much you paid, and where the gas came from.
You can mail in the form, fax it, or drop it off in person.
There is a basic test in place to determine whether a gas station is price gouging. Officials will compare the price of gas before the state of emergency to the price after the state of emergency and decide whether the new price “grossly exceeds” the previous one.
Dalby said although she’s not aware of any recent complaints, concerns about price gouging are bound to happen.
“I’m sure that it’s always on peoples’ minds right now as prices go up as much as they have right now," Dalby said.
Price gouging protection also extends to other supplies, including food at the grocery store. Any price gouging complaint unrelated to fuel is investigated by the Attorney General’s Office.