Bill calls for gas station credit-price signs

Sen. Lee Zeldin will introduce legislation this week that seeks to punish gas station owners who mislead customers on prices. Videojournalist: Mario Gonzalez (April 24, 2012)

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Proposed legislation requiring gas stations to disclose sharply higher credit card prices on curbside signs would fine repeat violators up to $1,000 and shut down their stations for 10 days, the Long Island state senator sponsoring the bill said Tuesday.

And a counterpart in the Assembly said he will introduce a bill of his own, a move increasing the odds such a proposal could become law.

State Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), who chairs the Senate's Consumer Affairs Committee, said his legislation, to be introduced this week, would require stations to post the credit price on their curbside signs if it is more than 7 percent higher than the cash price. Violators would face $500 fines for a first offense, $1,000 for subsequent violations and, for a third offense, would have their station shut down for 10 days or until its signs were in compliance.

Separately, Assemb. Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Bronx Democrat who chairs that body's consumer committee, said a bill he's introducing this week would require that stations post both cash and credit prices on curbside signs if there is any difference at all between them. "Hopefully we can work out the differences between the two bills," he said.

The legislation is in response to motorist outrage over a relatively small number of stations charging as much as $2 more per gallon for credit card purchases, although their cash prices usually are relative bargains. "This legislation will help end the deceptive practices that some bad actors are using," Zeldin said.

At one of several stations he cited Tuesday as offenders, a Mobil on Sunrise Highway in Islip Terrace, Dowling College student Lindsey Ohland, 21, was paying $4.959 via charge card for the regular gas she was pumping into her Nissan Altima -- $1 more than the cash price. She said she forgot to bring cash but needed gas. "It's absolutely ridiculous," she said.

Station operator Steve Keshtgar said later that he posted the $1 and, briefly $2, differences at several of his stations to protest credit card fees, which he said are higher than his squeezed profits, and to offer cash customers significant savings. He said they have responded in droves: "My volume went from 20,000 gallons a day to 200,000 gallons at all my stations."

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