A report from GasBuddy.com, on Monday, August 17, noted that gas prices in Grand Rapids had risen 52 cents a gallon in the last week. The average price in Grand Rapids on Sunday, August 16, was $2.97 a gallon. Cedar Springs was only a penny lower. This compares with the national average that increased 8.5 cents per gallon in the last week to $2.68/g.
By Wednesday, August 17, Cedar Springs had dropped back to $2.86, while the greater Grand Rapids area averaged $2.895.
Including the change in gas prices in Grand Rapids during the past week, Sunday was 45.0 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago and 36.5 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average decreased 9.0 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 77.5 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago.
“Obviously, the story about fuel prices last week was all about a massive spike in gasoline prices throughout the Midwest,” said Patrick DeHaan, GasBuddy senior petroleum analyst. “Prices have risen in Great Lakes states at paces rivaling and exceeding prior records, which I would pin on an unexpected emergency shutdown of a unit at BP’s Whiting, Indiana refinery. In addition, there have been other scheduled outages in the Midwest that may be leading to gasoline demand outpacing supply in the region, essentially causing panic on gasoline markets,” DeHaan said. “Hikes have been witnessed across many states, though the epicenter of gargantuan hikes was centered in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, where prices raced up by over 50 cents a gallon in mere days. Also seeing spikes over 25 cents: Ohio, Wisconsin and Kentucky, while Minnesota, Oklahoma, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa saw prices jump over 10 cents a gallon,” DeHaan noted. “At this point, it does appear that most of the price shocks are behind us, though if there are any curve balls that hit the market, all bets are off. Outside the Great Lakes, most regions are seeing gasoline prices decline. Leading decliners are New Jersey and Oregon, with Washington coming in third,” DeHaan said.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a warning to gas stations last Friday against any attempt to take advantage of consumers by price gouging or price fixing.
In addition to this warning, the Attorney General has also issued a letter to BP, the owner of the Whiting, Ind. facility experiencing an outage, as well as other major petroleum companies outlining a need for transparency in the case of an outage or other unexpected event.
“As Labor Day weekend approaches, the effects of an outage at a major Indiana petroleum refinery, combined with additional factors, means Michigan families are seeing an increase in the price at the pump. These circumstances do not constitute a free pass for gas stations to gouge consumers,” said Schuette. “We will not tolerate any unscrupulous behavior that violates Michigan law when it comes to gouging and price fixing.”
Every day, year round, Schuette’s Consumer Protection team monitors the balance of wholesale and retail petroleum prices and profit margins in regions around Michigan. Additionally, the Department receives and reviews consumer complaints and inquiries about individual stations. The Department investigates any time there is evidence that state law has been violated for gouging or price fixing.
Under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, a retailer may not charge a price that is “grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold.” Anti-trust laws also prohibit gas stations from entering into agreements to arbitrarily fix prices in unison.
For example, Schuette secured convictions for gasoline price-fixing by five Michigan station owners in 2012. The Department has also entered into “compliance-agreements” with stations requiring them to submit to monitoring after they spiked prices well above the state-wide norm on a particular day or after a weather event.
Schuette remains committed to fighting higher gasoline prices in court when the price increases violate the law. If consumers become aware of direct evidence concerning a conspiracy between companies, or have verifiable evidence of a retailer charging a price “grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold,” they are encouraged to contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-765-8388 or file an online complaint at www.michigan.gov/ag.