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State subpoenas gas station records

Locations of stations not revealed yet

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POSTED: October 4, 2008 5:00 a.m.

ATLANTA -- The state has subpoenaed financial records from a handful of gas stations after hundreds of residents called to complain about price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

The Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs has asked for sales records from about 15 businesses statewide, deputy administrator Ann Infinger said Thursday. She declined to say where the gas stations are located because they are still under investigation.

The number of subpoenas could grow significantly over the next week as the state trudges through more than 800 complaints it's gotten since Gov. Sonny Perdue activated the state's anti-price gouging laws Friday, Infinger said.

"We are identifying stations every hour as more and more complaints get to legal division," she said.

She's heard stories of stations charging as much as $7.00 a gallon for gas. One station in Columbia County in east Georgia had posted $9.99 on its sign, but workers there said they were out of gas and only using the price to deter potential customers from stopping.

Prices at most stations in metro Atlanta ranged from $3.99 to $4.99 earlier this week.

Many Gulf Coast refineries shut down production as a precaution before Hurricane Ike and may remain shuttered for days, even if they were not damaged, because of power outages. That has left many Georgia gas stations with little or no gasoline to refill their pumps after frantic drivers tapped their supplies before the storm hit out of concern there would be a gas shortage.

Georgia's average gas prices remain among the highest in the country since the weekend, according to AAA's daily fuel gauge report.

The average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gas was at $4.10 on Thursday, down 6 cents since Monday's record high. That's the fifth-highest average among states, behind Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois and Indiana, according to AAA.

Most average fuel prices change by only tenths of a cent each day, making Georgia's price drop fairly dramatic, said AAA Auto Club South spokesman Gregg Laskoski.

"These numbers certainly suggest that things are correcting themselves very quickly," he said.

It could be another week or so before prices return to what they were before Ike, mostly because refineries need time to ramp up production again and many are still shuttered because of power outages, Laskoski said.

The national average gas price Thursday was $3.83 a gallon for unleaded regular.

Infinger said violating Georgia's price gouging law can lead to fines up to about $15,000 per violation.

After Hurricane Katrina, Georgia investigated 200 gas stations for price gouging and ended up levying fines against 80 businesses, she said.

 

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