NY Attorney General: 25% Of Gas Stations "Engage In Deceptive Practices"

New York’s Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, is warning consumers after an undercover investigation found that 25% of gas stations are engaging in “deceptive practices, including wrongfully surcharging credit card customers.” The AG says that under New York state law, retailers are not allowed to impose surcharges for using a credit card.

The AG also said that the stations were engaging in false advertising by only listing the lower cash prices on signs, leading to nasty surprises for consumers once they parked at the pump.

“With drivers hitting the road this weekend and gas prices through the roof, the last thing New York City drivers need are gas stations hitting them with exorbitant prices for paying with a credit card,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Drivers across New York City need to be on the guard for gas stations that engage in deceptive practices to squeeze every last dollar out of their customers. Our investigation revealed that New York City is rife with gas stations that engage in deceptive practices where they display one price as a way to lure customers – and then charge them more at the pump.”

Consumers who see gas stations prominently advertising the cash-only price on primary signage and then indicating at the pump that credit card customers will be charged more are urged to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at 1-800-996-4630.

For more information about how credit card surcharges work, click here. Remember, your state laws will vary.

ATTORNEY GENERAL CUOMO ISSUES CONSUMER ALERT FOR NYC DRIVERS AFTER INVESTIGATION REVEALS NEARLY 25% OF NYC AREA GAS STATIONS INSPECTED ENGAGED IN DECEPTIVE PRACTICES [NY AG]
(Photo: whatatravisty )

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  1. womynist says:

    Any info on who to contact in states other than NY to find what the laws are?

  2. uhohsmmoreo says:

    I’m also wondering. As a 17 year old driver in Massachusetts, this is particularly relevant as the extra six cents per gallon really does add up when using a credit card.

    • chiieddy says:

      @uhohsmmoreo: You’re a 17 year old with a credit card?!

      • uhohsmmoreo says:

        @chiieddy: Yes. It’s for emergencies and gas, and I’ll occasionally do some food shopping or run errands for my mom and use the credit card. It’s not that uncommon around here.

      • ffmariners says:

        @chiieddy: I had a credit card at 17. I have never missed a payment, nor have I carried a balance for more than a month or two (consumption smoothing).

        I have excellent credit at 22 now… so it worked out well.

        • snowburnt says:

          @ffmariners: if you want better credit, maintain a minimal balance from month to month so that you pay some interest. You rub their back they’ll rub yours.

          Anyone know about Virginia laws regarding this?

  3. MaxSmart32 says:

    Just to make a point…it seems that the article is talking about two different geographic regions: New York City and New York State. Knowing that I am going to be travelling home to upstate New York tonight, is that 25% of gas stations primarily in the City, or what?

    • floraposte says:

      @max-hiding-in-the-forrest32: If you look at the actual release, it’s pretty clear. Cuomo is the AG of New York State, and the laws he’s talking about apply to the whole state, but the investigation scope was just New York City. So the numbers could be higher, lower, or the same in the rest of the state. It’s probably worth keeping your eyes peeled for this across the country on general principle anyway.

  4. Amiga_500 says:

    I had my first credit card through Chase at 15, with no parent cosigner!

    I’ve never seen different prices for credit cards, but I have seen several places that only accept cash.

    On another note, why to they stop gas transactions at $75. On the pump sticker, it said to swipe your card a second time if you need more that $75 in gas. Do they save money by you having to swipe your card again?

    • Nytmare says:

      @Amiga_500: Because the card companies set the hold value at a standard $75. Instead of asking how much credit you have available, the gas pump asks if you have $75 and then places a hold for that amount until you’re done pumping.

  5. Orv says:

    Now prices will go up for everyone to make up for the credit card fees.

  6. Aesteval says:

    The only signs that I’ve seen in my area of New York explicitly
    advertise the lower price as being cash only. There are even some that
    explicitly advertise the regular price and the cash only discount. So
    either gas stations in the NYC area are a whole world different than
    around here, or NY has an overly zealous AG on its hands (I’m leaning
    towards both.) I like some of the things that Cuomo has gone after, but
    can’t help but wonder if he’s chasing shadows at some of them.

    • floraposte says:

      @Aesteval: I think the point is that there aren’t signs–that people are just finding a different price at the pump once they swipe their cards.

  7. DerangedRoleModel says:

    I swear it’s much more than 25% on Long Island. I’d say almost 75% that have that different pricing for cash and credit, and almost all of those do not list the price for credit on the big signs on the road. They prey on you pulling in and not noticing until you look up on the smaller price signs above the pump.

  8. I live in NY. The other day I went to the gas station with my tank almost on empty. I someone managed to magically put 17.5 gallons of gas in a 16 gallon tank. Thanks gas station!

  9. summerbee says:

    I also had a credit card at age 16 from a federal credit union. I only used it for large purchases and would pay it back immediately to build credit.

    Anyway, I’m in PA, and I just drove away from a gas station the other day for this very reason. I believe it was a Getty station. I saw something like $3.60 on the sign and then $3.80 as the price on the pump. I didn’t have cash on me, so I walked inside and asked the cashier about the price discrepancy. Assuming that they simply didn’t get around to changing the signage yet, I asked for a courtesy discount based on the advertising I saw from the road. (I was on the way to work in the morning, and my tank was nearly on E.) He denied me any discount and told me to use cash if I wanted the cheaper price.

    I wasn’t about to let them have an extra twenty cents per gallon, so I drove the rest of the way to work and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t run out of gas. Has anyone found a list of state-by-state law yet?

  10. toddkravos says:

    I sure wish Ohio had such a law. There are a few stations in the Cleveland market that will do a sliding up-charge when paying with plastique:
    What I’ve seen typically looks like:
    5c/gal for the low grade
    8c/gal for mid a
    10c/gal for the high

    While some stations simply do a 5c/gal surcharge.

  11. Apeweek says:

    This violates credit card agreements, too. I once called up Visa to ask about being surcharged for using credit, and they refunded me the difference instantly.

    • taking_this_easy says:

      @Apeweek: i know its supposed to be against the credit card agreement

      but i called Macy (they have a Visa card…) the CSR on the phone said it wasnt illegal(I wanted to chargeback some amount on a company because they charged cc fees on me, wanted to make sure)….. probably a low-level guy…

  12. Hmmm.. I live in Long Island, NY and I noticed a sign on a pump at a Citgo station that was charging different prices for cash and credit. The sign said something along the lines of “We pay surcharges for credit and debit purchases and must pass them onto the customer.” I should probably go back there and take a picture of that asap.

  13. harlock_JDS says:

    what if it’s not a surcharge on credit but a discount on cash. That’s how the stations i go to in NJ spin it personally i love the extra 10 cents savings per gal and don’t see why i have to pay more for the convenience of people who use credit cards.

    Assuming that the signs show both prices of course, showing just the cash price and upchargeing the credit price is shady.

  14. schiff says:

    The gas station I usually go to, Floral Park Gas, puts a price on the large sign by the road and hangs a small sign under it that says “CASH”. Does this make it legal?

  15. Yes, I see this in Albany all the time. I tell my family if they see it, to write down who it is and tell me, I’LL REPORT THEIR @SSES.

  16. megsuma says:

    I’d also just like to note that this struck a particular chord with me. Deceptive would describe the Exxon on the corner of Cornwallis and Church here in Greensboro, NC. I went for gas this morning and pulled into the available pump – with the sign reading $3.59 out front, I wasn’t happy but hey, gotta keep the wheels a-movin’. I pumped my gas, got ready to leave and then noticed the price on the pump – $3.89 for regular!! Deceptive, yes, but even more frustrating because I neglected to see the “Full” sign above the pump, apparently indicating that the pump – the only open when I pulled in – was full service. Well, great, glad your one-word sign was so descriptive and helpful. To boot, no one even came out to actually service my car, but I got to still pay the extra $0.30/gallon “tax” for their effort.

  17. jswilson64 says:

    Here’s one I noticed a couple of months ago:
    Gas station sign advertised $3.79. The pumps were the type with a digital price under or next to the big yellow button for the grade of gas, ane the pump indicated Total, Gallons, and Price per Gallon.

    When I pulled up to the pump, the price display next to 87 Octane said $3.79. After I swiped my card, authorized transaction, etc., I pushed the yellow button for 87 octane gas. Pump reset to 0′s, but the Price per Gallon in the upper display had magically jumped to $3.93!!!

    I think the station was using the cash/credit different price setting to slip a higher price in. How many people look at the price once they hit the yellow button, anyway?

    • megsuma says:

      @jswilson64: Crafty indeed!

      I also just told my friend about this article, and she reminded me of another great anecdote. You see, she was buying gas recently and we’re all used to seeing Regular – Super – Premium; 1-2-3, at the pump. We KNOW the order of these things because its always been that way. She started pumping with the first selection, only to find that the station had switched the position of the Regular – 2-1-3, so she bought Super by accident. Easy to avoid, but as jswilson64 points out, force of habit can really work against you in the case of the shady gas station.

      • Aesteval says:

        @megsuma: I’ve done that once. I don’t think
        in my case it was anything wrong with the gas station, they just
        happened to have it ordered differently and I should have paid more
        attention to what I was hitting. I was also in a different region as
        well, so maybe all the gas pumps are in that order there.

        @floraposte: Yeah, but that’s only half my
        point. I’m not convinced that every station that received notice from
        Cuomo was doing what he alleged they were doing. In fact I’ve seen
        remarks from station owners that are explicitly stating about the cash
        discount aspect and still received notice from him. I’m against false
        advertising and all that, but I’m also somewhat sympathetic towards
        someone that’s only fairly trying to cover their expenses. And I’ve got
        a really bad habit of relating Cuomo to Spitzer with all of the high
        profile, high media coverage that Cuomo’s been doing. I’m all for doing
        what’s right, but I’ve got the severely creeping feeling that the only
        reason why Cuomo is doing half the stuff that he’s doing is solely for
        political aspirations. In some ways it’s irrational on my part and I
        admit that.

        • megsuma says:

          @Aesteval:

          I wasn’t trying to really say that the order switch was wron per se, but confusing nonetheless. The Full-service incident was my fault really, but to see an advertised price flips this “autopilot” switch – well, it did. I’m going to start paying attention again lol

      • Bruce says:

        @megsuma:
        Regarding the nozzle order of the regular – mid-grade and premium, depending on where you buy your gas, the order can change on the other side of the pump due to the internal plumbing of the pump itself. 1-2-3 on one side and 3-2-1 on the other side.

        I’ve seen this at several different stations around where I live.

        Some stations of the same brand have the 2-1-3 order, some don’t. It’s possible that it’s configured that way to catch the unaware motorist or it could be due to the make/model of that pump at a particular station is different than one across town of the same brand gas.

  18. Triborough says:

    New York’s Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo is probably running for Governor, so expect more of these brand awareness campaigns.

  19. knightracer says:

    I’ve also noticed some stations who have changed the order to Super – Regular – Premium

  20. snowburnt says:

    also, I noticed one gas station advertising a cash discount, so some businesses are figuring it out

  21. socalrob of the 24 and a half century says:

    Every Arco does this. In California at least. They list only the cash price, then if you pay with a debit card or credit card its a 45 cent charge per purchase service fee.

    They may get around it though because they dont list any other price on the pump either, only the cash price.

  22. AlexPDL says:

    Gas stations are franchises and their small time owners are pretty shady at times. I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories about shiester franchise owners watering down gas and faking all sorts of docs.

  23. scootinger says:

    One sort of “deceptive practice” that’s annoyed me recently is how here in Oklahoma gas stations started to put ethanol in their gas without any sort of notice. I think it’s fraud to sell a product called “gasoline” that isn’t actually entirely gasoline but is partially composed of another substance that oftentimes reduces your gas mileage. I almost don’t blame the station owners, seeing as if one decided to be honest about their product, then they would likely lose business and the others still wouldn’t have an incentive to be honest. (except for the stations that specifically advertise that they sell gas with no ethanol, which seems to be somewhat of a niche product) however thankfully, a state law ordering stations that sell gas with ethanol to place a notice notifying the customer recently went into effect.

    • Drew5764 says:

      @scootinger:

      I haven’t seen a gas station (granted I’m in NYC) that sells plain gasoline as far back as I can remember (I’ve been driving for 10 years). I’m fairly certain they all put 10% ethanol in now.

  24. Dansc29625 says:

    “Cuomo noted that customers who use credit cards already pay a premium to the credit card company. An additional “usage fee” at the pump doubly penalizes the customer.”

    I’ve never paid a “premium” to a credit card company. (Is he talking about intrest? Annual Fee? I cant figure out what he is talking about there. I believe it is totally fair to charge a “processing fee” for a credit card (even if it does violate the law). Why should those who trade in cash have to share in the burden of a higher price due to your credit card’s merchant fees? Always ask for a cash discount.

    • Drew5764 says:

      @Dansc29625:
      You can cask for a cash discount, but the Merchant agreement still stands. Visa/MC/whomever don’t get business (you don’t get their protection either, so maybe use an AMEX instead) because of the practice, so they prohibit it. The stations stand to lose a lot more money if they lose the ability to accept major cards than if they lost a couple of cents per gallon.

  25. citrus538 says:

    This happens all over the place in So-Cal, never saw it when I lived in NY. Is this legal in California?

  26. Brontide says:

    I’m sure Mobil’s sleazy carwash scheme will be allowed under Cuomo’s rules. They headline the 10c discount with the regular in smaller print below it.

  27. goOutSide says:

    I live in Rochester, NY. How’s this for sleazy: You can get at a Hess station next to where I work for 3.58 a gallon, yet if you go 1 mile down the highway to the next exit, gas at a Hess station is 3.75 a gallon. Same mileage from the highway, and 1 extra mile per tanker driven in, does not constitute the extra 17 cents per gallon. Oh and less than 5 miles up that same highway, another Hess station is 3:85 a gallon. Yay price gouging!!