JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. — Gas pumps across the Tri-Cities were covered Wednesday night after people rushed to the pumps earlier in the day and week. Prices are also up, leaving some to believe price gouging is happening.
“It’s difficult to tell just by looking at the price because we have to take into account the price of the station as well, so if their prices have gone up, they’re naturally going to raise prices,” said Tennessee Deputy Attorney General Jeff Hill.
The Tennessee Price Gouging Statute is only activated when a state of emergency or economic disruption is declared, which hasn’t happened for the state.
“There is another law that says you cannot unreasonably raise rates in direct response to a crime or a disaster or terrorism, and that may come into play even without a state of emergency,” Hill said. “People just need to look out for prices to see if they’re unreasonable prices and report them and let us do our job. When we receive a report of $4.99, gas has gone up $3, that’s something we’ll look into and if the price has gone up to the station or if it’s in the normal course of business, we’ll be able to make that determination.”
Hill says his office has received several claims and dozens of phone calls — a good portion from the Tri-Cities region.
“I don’t know specifically why more calls might be coming from that area, but because of the pipeline coming up through there, it’s possible that Northeast Tennessee is more impacted by this pipeline, but that’s something that we need to check into,” he said.
However, his office can’t look into complaints if they aren’t filed online or by mail.
“If you think that you have become the victim of price gouging, go ahead and document it,” said Samantha Fisher, the director of communications for the Tennessee Attorney General’s office. “Keep your receipt, maybe take a picture with your cell phone of the price of gas at the gas station and go ahead and use that information when you file your complaint with the Division of Consumer Affairs.
“Just like any complaint, regardless of whether the law has been activated or not, we will go ahead and take a look and try to mediate.”
The Tennessee Fuel and Convenience store Association told News Channel 11 in a statement “hoarding and panic buying is our worst enemy right now.”
The executive director, Emily LeRoy, went on to say the following:
“It’s important to remember that companies are sending trucks out-of-state to pick up fuel for Tennessee while the Colonial Pipeline is unavailable… it costs more to haul fuel for a longer distance… Right now, every fuel retailer and wholesaler in Tennessee is focused on getting fuel to the pumps. Demand for gas has doubled or tripled since Monday. The best thing that consumers can do is buy only what they need and stick regular fill-up routines.”
Colonial said in a statement Wednesday the pipeline may experience or continue to experience intermittent service interruptions during the start up period but they will move as much fuel possible.