A Long Island lawmaker wants to start fining gas stations that don’t adequately display the higher prices for customers who pay for fuel with credit or debit cards instead of paying cash.
State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who is introducing the legislation later this week, said Tuesday that he and other lawmakers decided to act after infuriated consumers started noticing some gas stations charging as much as $2 more for credit than cash.
“Station owners are deceptively posting the sign lower cash price on the street level side…and luring consumers into the gas station,” said Zeldin, chairman of the Senate Consumer Protection Committee.
If passed, the bill would force gas stations to post the higher credit card price on the station’s street-side sign if there is a 7 percent per gallon difference in cost between cash and credit.
Violators would have to pay a $500 fine for a first offense and $1,000 for a second. A third-time offender would have to shut down for 10 days, or until they comply with the standard.
Zeldin said what gas stations are doing is “reprehensible” because consumers are using credit cards at the pump more than ever. Not until drivers get to the pump do they “realize they’re being scammed,” he added.
The senator also provided a list of gas stations that were still charging more than $1 for credit—all in Suffolk County.
They include: Gulf, 286 Express Dr. South, Medford; Islip Mobile, 3239 Sunrise Hwy, Islip Terrace; Gulf, 4909 Sunrise Hwy, Bohemia; Gulf, 410 Wheeler Rd., Hauppauge; Gulf, 1395 Veterans Hwy, Islandia; and Mobile, 819 West Jericho Tpke., Smithtown.
Records show that all of the gas stations are owned by one man, Steven Keshtgar, who owns more than a dozen gas stations throughout Suffolk. A person who picked up the phone at Keshtgar’s office said he was not available. A message left last week was not returned.
Although consumers have been clamoring for change, officials said there is nothing they can do to stop gas station owners because they’re saying the cash price is actually a discount, and what they’re charging for credit is the actual price of gas.
But some have wilted to public pressure, Zeldin said, as his office has seen the number of gas stations charging $2 extra for credit dwindling.
Meanwhile, Zeldin said there has been “open dialogue” in Albany, regarding legislation to protect consumers from being scammed at the pump. He said he’s hopeful that Democrats and Republicans can come together to stop deceptive practices at gas stations.
“Nothing government can do is more effective than empowering consumers to make informed decisions to bring their business elsewhere or to pay with cash if a business owner is attempting to rip them off,” he said.