Sunshine gasoline dealers face hefty fines for price increases
More than 100 suppliers of sunlit gasoline sold at Costco and other retailers have agreed to pay $3.5 million in fines in a case that drew national attention to the price-gouging by some of the nation’s largest gasoline distributors.
The fine amounts to a fraction of the roughly $8.8 billion a year the industry’s largest price-fixing defendants have made in federal court over the last two decades, according to the complaint.
Sunshine’s owners say the distributors sold more than 100 million gallons of the product last year at prices that were too high.
Costco said in a statement that it has “implemented and will continue to implement corrective measures.”
Sunshine, which makes the popular gasoline used in the vast majority of cars, is one of the country’s largest retailers.
Its sales surged more than 70 percent in the first quarter of 2017, fueled by rising prices for its fuel.
Sunlight also has been the target of lawsuits from distributors that contend the price gouging hurts their bottom lines.
Sunlight’s largest supplier, Horizon, agreed to settle in April with the Justice Department and the state of Ohio.
Horizon said it would pay $2.2 million and agreed to take steps to reduce prices by $10 per gallon.
Horizon has about 3,500 stores in the U.S.
The Justice Department filed a civil rights complaint against Sunlight, alleging that the distributors used deceptive advertising and marketing to increase the price of Sunlight gasoline and drive away customers.
Sunlighters distributors used aggressive marketing to convince consumers that Sunlight was more expensive than competitors, the complaint said.
Sunlighters has agreed to provide $4.5 billion in relief for victims of price-rigging, including $3 million in restitution for customers, the Justice Dept. said in the complaint, which was filed in U.K. courts.