Deal falls short to make gas price signs consistent

Vote next week by PBC Commission

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Palm Beach County Commissioners are scheduled to vote Tuesday on a proposal to regulate how gas prices are advertised. But a potential deal between gas station owners and the county ahead of that vote is at risk.

The county proposal would require gas stations to post the highest gas price whether a customer pays with cash or by credit.  The stations could still post both prices but they’d have to be the same size and seen if you’re on the street.

The trade group representing gas stations said Wednesday morning they were in favor of the proposal as long as they had a year to make the changes to signs.

But late Wednesday, the deal appeared to be falling through.

Ned Bowman with the Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association said a majority of his group’s membership is opposed to the deal.

“I would say it’s 60-40 (percent) against this proposal,” Bowman told NewsChannel 5 Consumer Watchdog Jenn Strathman.

The gas station owners are concerned about the cost of having to change signs to comply.

Half of Palm Beach County gas stations advertise a discounted cash price on the street but charge a higher price at the pump if you use a credit card.

A Consumer Watchdog investigation in the fall found drivers have complained to the county about this since 2009. But nothing was done until the Consumer Watchdog brought the issue to Commissioner Hal Valeche.

Valeche proposed an ordinance that would require stations to post the maximum price for gas. That doesn’t mean gas stations can’t post the cash price, but it has to be as large as the credit price.

Broward and Dade counties have passed similar ordinances to the one being discussed in Palm Beach County now.

It’s an issue Bowman believes shouldn’t be enforced by the county.

“If you go county by county, this should be resolved at the state level and not the local level,” Bowman said.

Representatives of Bowman’s group will meet with county officials Thursday to see if a deal can be reached ahead of Tuesday’s vote. The county could delay a vote or move forward with it even without a deal in place.

Drivers say they’re hoping to see changes soon when they fill up.

“They make a lot of money on all of us, so I think it’s a small price to pay,” said driver Michael Lioz.

Gas station owners are expected to be at Tuesday's meeting of the Palm Beach County Commission. It starts at 9:30 a.m. at the county headquarters in West Palm Beach. Commissioners hope drivers can show up to express their opinions on the issue.
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