Bill would give drivers more warning about gas price differences

A proposed law in Suffolk County would give A proposed law in Suffolk County would give drivers more warning before they pay extra to fill up gas tanks using credit or debit cards instead of cash. Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

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A proposed law in Suffolk County would give drivers more warning before they pay extra to fill up gas tanks using credit or debit cards instead of cash.

Under a bill introduced last week by Suffolk Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), gas stations' automated pump displays would have to inform customers how much more they will pay per gallon, and customers would be prompted about whether they want to proceed.

State law requires signs with the various prices next to the pumps, but Schneiderman said more notice is necessary.

Schneiderman said he wrote the bill after paying 98 cents per gallon more at a Medford station when he used his credit card. He said he only realized the higher price after his gas bill hit $60.

"It's highway robbery," Schneiderman said. "I think consumers are used to a reasonable differential at a gas station. But such a large difference warrants the extra level of consumer notification and consent."

Schneiderman compared the consumer notice in his legislation, which will be heard at the legislature's next meeting on April 29, to warnings about extra fees in ATM transactions.

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"Consumers deserve notification at the point of sale, when there are additional fees associated with the transaction," he said.

The bill would take effect 180 days after passage and imposes a maximum $1,000 fine.

Ralph Bombardiere, executive director of the New York State Association of Service Stations, called the proposal unnecessary. He noted the presence of the required signs, and said most retailers charge only a 10 cent per gallon difference between cash and credit or debit.

Requiring the pumps to display more information also could force stations to pay for software upgrades, he said.

"He's trying to kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer," Bombardiere said. Still, Bombardiere expressed surprise at the price difference Schneiderman encountered. "98 cents? No wonder he's . . . [angry]," Bombardiere said.

Nassau does not have similar legislation, Bombardiere said.

State law forbids surcharges for credit card purchases on gas. But gas stations can offer a discounted price for cash, which has blocked state efforts to control price differentials.

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