Schumer wants the Federal Trade Commission to look out for gas gouging

September 20, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer says he is concerned that gasoline prices aren’t falling “back down to earth” as quickly as possible after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Photo shows a BP gas station on 18th Avenue in Bensonhurst. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas
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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) should be watching the gasoline pump to help guard against price gouging in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma and the shortages of oil they brought, according to U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, who said price in August and September were unfair. 

Schumer (D-New York) is asking the FTC to set up a “gouge watch” effort to help inform consumers.  

“In terms of this nation’s supply and demand for gasoline, Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were short-term disruptions that really shouldn’t have a long-term impact on prices at the pump. Gas prices should come back down to earth just as fast as they went up. But right now, my worry is they will not fall as fast as they should. That is why I am asking the FTC to launch a ‘gouge watch’ with oil producers, transporters and refiners alike,” Schumer said in a statement. 

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Schumer has written to FTC Acting Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen to request action. 

In his letter, Schumer noted the quick rise in gas prices in New York City and Long Island ahead of and during the two hurricanes, but added that there is a danger of market clearing, in which the prices don’t fall back to normal levels quickly following natural disasters.

“The only thing that makes a devastating natural disaster worse is the idea that that big oil could be making a buck off of the mess and hosing consumers, even after the storm has passed us by and the recovery has begun,” Schumer stated.

The average price of gas in New York is currently $2.95 and the average price of gas on Long Island is $2.84, a 13 percent increase from before the storms, according to the American Automobile Association. 

Schumer said that FTC should take a close look into whether big oil companies are taking advantage of consumers.

While the Federal Trade Commission has limited powers to gas price gouging, there is precedent for the agency to put pressure on the petroleum industry and see results, according to Schumer. 

Schumer said a “gouge watch” by FTC would put big oil on notice and allow consumers to feel more confident about the return of price stability within the fuel market.  

“Given the rocket-like rise of gas prices in the midst of these storms and the feather-like fall in prices we could see, I am asking your agency to launch a gouge watch. Specifically, I hope you will inform the crude oil industry that the FTC is paying close attention to pricing and competitive practices within the oil and natural gas market, especially as prices may hover higher in the future than they should upon returning to normal conditions,” Schumer wrote in his letter to Ohlhausen.  


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