Palm Beach County gas prices: Commission delays vote on cash vs. credit gas prices

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A proposed ordinance to regulate gas station signs stalled Tuesday at the Palm Beach County Commission when last minute pressure by the gas industry delayed a vote for at least another month.

There was a tentative deal between the two parties, but the Consumer Watchdog found there were growing concerns by the gas industry late last week.

Those concerns were recognized by the commission, even though the industry had five months to voice its concerns before the scheduled vote.

Commissioner Hal Valeche first brought up the issue at a meeting in October. He asked staff to investigate after the Consumer Watchdog brought the findings of our investigation to him. At some gas stations drivers have to look for the small words "cash" on signs to know the price listed is not what you'll pay if you use a credit card

Inspectors with the State Department of Agriculture say cash and credit pricing complaints are their number one complaint. They have to investigate everyone, and it takes time away from the inspectors other duties at gas stations. Inspectors told the Consumer Watchdog they look forward to an ordinance.

The proposed ordinance would require gas stations to post the highest price. They can still post the cash price, but it has to be as large as the credit price. Half of Palm Beach County gas stations use cash and credit pricing, and they said they would need to buy larger signs to comply with the ordinance. The cost is estimated at $10,000 a sign.

The Commissioners and Florida Petroleum Marketers & Convenience Store Association agreed to a deal to delay the ordinance for one year to give gas stations ample time to comply. However, that deal fell apart late last week. There was growing concern from gas station owners about the cost to make the necessary changes.

Despite the growing concern, Commissioner Hal Valeche expected the vote to move forward Tuesday.

Mayor Priscilla Taylor raised concerns after staff made their presentation on the ordinance and asked the commission to vote in favor of it. Taylor said she was contacted by the gas industry and was concerned with the amount of time they were given to respond to the issue.

Valeche thought the gas industry was given enough time to respond to the proposal. He questioned what more time would accomplish, but in the end agreed to delay the vote until April 15th.

Driver Andy Botwick, who first brought the issue to the Consumer Watchdog, was disappointed by the delay. "It appears there's a bit of politics involved here," he said. "Delaying it another 30 days, it seems inevitable that it's going to pass.  And you just wonder if it gives the petroleum industry another 30 days to find a couple more unsuspecting customers."

The commission's own staff admits cash and credit pricing is "deceptive," but the delay was granted. We'll continue to follow the latest efforts by the gas industry to get their concerns addressed.

What do you think of the delay? Join the conversation on Jenn Strathman's Facebook and Twitter page.

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