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Attorney General Hood Addresses Gas Price Issues in Mississippi
From: Office of the Attorney General    Filed 5/24/07  GCN

Jackson, MS-Attorney General Jim Hood, partnering with Mississippi State University, today addressed increasing gas prices and the actions being taken by his office concerning the gas industry in Mississippi.  The key elements of those actions include: 

1) settlements and potential  lawsuits in price gouging cases related to Hurricane Katrina,

2) a gasoline industry market study and

3) the creation of a consumer awareness pamphlet.

Price Gouging Cases

"We have thoroughly investigated reports of price gouging following Hurricane Katrina and found compelling evidence against seven companies," said Attorney General Hood.  "Five companies have cooperated and settled with us and we fully intend to file suit against the others if we can't come to an agreement in the near future."
 
The total amount of the settlements is currently $293,254.61 (Disgorgement $33,530.47, Penalties $216,000, Fees/Costs $43,724.14).  Because of the settling gasoline companies' good faith desire to cooperate and work with the Attorney General's Office to resolve these matters, the parties thought a settlement was in the best interest of all concerned.

Furthermore, the settling companies showed a desire to work with the Attorney General's Office to educate the public about fluctuations in wholesale and retail gas prices (especially in times of emergency) and to work with the Attorney General's Office and the Legislature to clarify the statute to give more guidance to retailers when a state of emergency has been declared to avoid future violations. 

Gasoline Industry Market Study

"We are taking an in depth look at the retail gasoline industry within Mississippi by conducting a market study with the assistance of the Economics Department of Mississippi State University," said Attorney General Hood.  "This will give us a significant tool to determine whether anything illegal is occurring and if so, what laws are being broken.  This will be a major investigatory tool if price gouging is suspected in the
future.

Consumer Awareness

The Office of the Attorney General has seen a great need since Hurricane Katrina to inform the public about the gasoline industry.  One common misconception is that an increase in gasoline prices during a state of emergency is price gouging.

Per the law, a retailer is allowed to increase his/her prices to cover additional costs that he/she has incurred in bringing that product to the public.  They are not allowed to increase profit margins during a state of emergency.

That's why the Office of the Attorney General and the Mississippi State Department of Economics have partnered and produced a pamphlet titled, "What determines the price I pay for gasoline?"
 
"Many factors affect the price of gasoline," said Dr. Benjamin F. Blair, Associate Professor of Economics for Mississippi State University.  "We saw a spike in prices four to six weeks ago as consumer demand increased due to spring break vacations.  Recently, we have seen another spike as supplies have diminished due to refinery problems." 

The pamphlet is currently available online at www.agjimhood.com.

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