Suffolk to vote on bill to require gas station signs for credit card prices

A Suffolk legislative committee Wednesday approved proposed legislation

A Suffolk legislative committee Wednesday approved proposed legislation to help consumers avoid excessive credit card prices at the gas pump in a split 4-2 vote, despite industry claims that the software the measure would require does not exist. Pictured is a Gulf Station in Brentwood on July 31, 2013. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

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A proposal to alert drivers in Suffolk to credit card prices for gasoline on dealers' roadside signs will go to the full county legislature Tuesday after the measure was voted out of the government operations committee Wednesday.

Sponsor Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk), said the legislation is needed because consumers have been misled at some gas stations that charge credit prices from 98 cents to $1.30 per gallon more than the cash price.

"There's no question it's the right thing to do," said Schneiderman. "When you put $1 a gallon on top of the $4 you are paying, it adds up quickly."

Michael Watts, executive director of the Long Island Gasoline Dealers Association, called the measure an "unwarranted, unprecedented and perhaps unconstitutional" attempt to regulate gas prices and punish the industry. He predicted lawmakers would reject the proposal, as they did this spring in voting against a bill that would have required gas stations' automated pump displays to inform customers how much more they will pay per gallon. Customers would have been prompted about whether they wanted to proceed.

The new measure would require stations to put the credit card gas price on large roadside signs next to cash prices if the difference is more than 5 percent.

Backers said the proposal would not affect most gasoline dealers because their credit and cash prices differ by less.

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Two committee Republicans, Thomas Cilmi and Kevin McCaffrey, opposed the bill because there already are signs at the pump telling consumers the cash and credit price. "When do we stop?" asked Cilmi. "Where does a personal responsibility begin?"

McCaffrey said county consumer affairs officials should go after the few dealers with unscrupulous business practices.

Sammy Chu, a top Bellone aide who oversees the consumer department, said such judgments are subjective and may be hard to prosecute.

Republicans failed in an effort to table the resolution Wednesday. Legis. Rob Calarco (D-Patchogue), who is undecided on the bill, proposed it be sent to the full legislature, without recommendation, and it passed the committee by a vote of 4-2.

Presiding Officer DuWayne Gregory (D-Amityville) said he backs the measure "because it improves awareness and is consumer friendly. On balance, that's the place to be."

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