You pull into one of BP’s Oregon ARCO or AM?PM stations, and fill up with gas. The street signs tells you that gas costs a specific amount; maybe $3.50 per gallon. BP’s ARCO and AM-PM advertise some of the lowest gas prices in Oregon. At the pump, the price per gallon matches the sign you saw from the road.
So maybe you buy five gallons. But when you pay with your debit card, you’re assessed a debit card charge of $.35 or .45. So the price per gallon just went up seven to nine cents per gallon over the amount advertised.
BP markets ARCO gas as lower cost. The debit card fee does more than just hurt consumers. It also puts honest competitors at a disadvantage.
Oregon law is clear. Street signs advertising gas prices are supposed to be truthful. The prices charged at the pump are supposed to be the prices that Oregon consumers actually pay. Gas stations have to disclose add-on charges or conditions on their prices.
Oregon BP ARCO and AM PM mini-markets are not doing it. They’re violating Oregon law with every debit card charge.
Yes, it’s only a small charge. But lots of small charges add up to a lot of money. And BP is a master at collecting a lot of money.
Somewhere along the way, things went wrong. And somehow BP and its ilk decided that they were entitled to ignore state law and charge illegal add-on charges. For consumers, this nickel and diming amounts to a series of bites out of us and our bank accounts. It’s dishonest. To my way of thinking, the undisclosed add-on is a form of corporate corruption.
Fortunately, Oregon’s Unlawful Trade Practices Act provides a means of stopping this type of behavior. And yes, we filed the consumer fraud class action this week against BP because Oregon consumers deserve better. For those interested here is a pdf version of the complaint: Complaint Scharfstein v BP
One of the things about our commitment to handling consumer fraud class actions is that there never seems to be shortage of work for me and my law firm. Consumer fraud class actions are challenging cases, but there is something satisfying about being part of a small group of consumer lawyers willing to stand up against predation by the likes of BP. That’s why we are working late into the waning hours of 2011.
I am pleased to be joined on the case by my friend and frequent collaborator, Oregon consumer attorney Tim Quenelle. Tim and I handled the Comcast late fee class action together. We make a good team.
As with all of our major impact and consumer fraud class actions, I imagine this will be a long and hard-fought case. So this is how we close out 2011 and roll into 2012. We’ll report on it from time-to-time here. Feel free to check back for updates.
Also, if you have been bitten by the BP debit card charge in Oregon, please feel free to let us know via comment or through contact. We would love to hear your story.