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Editorial: Help motorists see high gas prices quickly

The Suffolk Legislature is holding a public hearing

The Suffolk Legislature is holding a public hearing on Tuesday, July 29, 2014 to discuss a proposal to require gas stations to post credit card prices on large signs that now only have cash prices. These signs were in place at a Hauppauge station on March 13, 2012. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The best way to stop gasoline station operators from charging unjustifiably higher prices for credit card purchases is for motorists to put those stations in their rearview mirrors. Ideally that's how things work in the free market.

Unfortunately, it hasn't played out that way in Suffolk County. Outrageous differences of $1 a gallon and more if you use plastic rather than cash have persisted for years. To wield their market muscle effectively, consumers need to be alerted to the unconscionable pricing.

A proposal by Suffolk County Legis. Jay Schneiderman (I-Montauk) would require stations to post credit card and cash prices on roadside signs when the difference is more than 5 percent. The legislature should pass it and spare motorists the sticker shock when they pull up to the pump or when it comes time to pay.

It's a simpler and better approach than a proposal lawmakers rejected this spring that would have required automated gas-pump displays that would flag the prices, giving credit card users the opportunity to opt out of a purchase.

Station owners pay card issuers a fee for each credit card transaction. So the customary differential of about 10 cents a gallon is warranted. But not $1.

That's just taking consumers for a ride.