SOUTH PLAINFIELD, N.J. ? On Wednesday, drivers pulling into one of the more than 50 Lukoil gasoline stations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey had a shock: $8 per gallon for gasoline. The stations sharply raised pump prices to protest unfair pricing policies by Lukoil North America, the Associated Press reports.
At a South Plainfield, N.J., Lukoil station, which jacked the cost to $8.99 per gallon, owners rallied. The New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience and Automotive Association, along with the retailers, said the 24-hour demonstration wanted to let consumers know about Lukoil?s unfair practices.
At the heart of the issue is station owners? complaint that they have to pay more to Lukoil for fuel than other company franchisees pay, which means Lukoil franchisees have to charge customers more. Lukoil franchisees pay 7 cents more a gallon, said Sal Risalvato, the association?s executive director.
?My price on invoices is what my competitors are selling on this street,? said Khalid Zackria, who owns the South Plainfield station. ?That?s why it?s hard for me to survive.?
Lukoil North America said it is in compliance with state law. Meanwhile, the New Jersey Attorney General?s Office is looking into the protest to ensure the stations complied with state laws against price fixing and gouging, said a spokesman with the division of consumer affairs, Oil Express reports.
Risalvato told Oil Express that he had spoken with the director of consumer affairs. ?I am confident that no consumers will be cheated,? he said, adding that response to the protest has been overwhelming.
In an Oil Express email interview, Lukoil vice president and general counsel wrote that the association had made ?misstatements? about the company. ?We have worked very hard in establishing Lukoil as a premium brand in the U.S. and value our network of independent dealers. ? The [association?s] efforts appear aimed at zone pricing, a commercially reasonable practice used by gasoline marketers for many years, which is fully compliant with New Jersey statutes.?