Attorney General Rowe Describes Action, Provides Advice On High Gas Prices

September 1, 2005

Attorney General Steve Rowe today provided information about his office's actions in response to high gas prices and offered advice on how all Mainers can help to contain further increases. Rowe has spoken with the Governor, met with representatives of the Governor's Office, and is speaking with legislative leaders, other state attorneys general, and federal authorities to ensure that consumer protection and antitrust laws are being scrupulously observed, and enforcement options fully explored as market participants respond to supply challenges.

Rowe said, "Under existing law, the Attorney General's Office monitors the level of competition in every geographic market for gasoline in the State. In response to the dramatic price hikes of the past couple of days, we began to actively monitor wholesale and retail gasoline prices throughout the State. These steps are intended to provide the baseline data for determining whether State consumer protection or antitrust laws are being violated. If we uncover violations, we will take immediate action against the violators. At the same time, I would remind consumers that it is not illegal for the retailers to pass along their high wholesale costs.

"We have contacted the key federal enforcement agencies, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, and encouraged them to pursue inquiries into possible antitrust violations by the major oil companies. We are also working with the Attorneys General in other states, sharing information and coordinating efforts.

"Under normal circumstances, the petroleum market is a competitive one, and prices are determined by the forces of supply and demand. While current supply challenges are beyond the full control of State officials, we can all affect the demand side of the equation. Conservation is the most effective tool to save Maine people money at the pump, to help ensure adequate supplies, and to reduce price at both the wholesale and retail levels. I strongly encourage Mainers to conserve fuel by avoiding unnecessary trips, inflating tires, carpooling, and the like. For more information on gas saving tips, you can visit Hoarding practices, such as topping off tanks or filling unneeded gas cans, only exacerbate supply problems. Consumers should also do their part to encourage competition by searching for the best price at the pump, preferably by telephone.

"While we know that the days and weeks ahead will be difficult for consumers due to the operation of market forces, all Mainers should rest assured that the responsible government authorities are doing our best to ensure that the problems we face are not compounded by illegal activities at any level of trade or commerce."