Photo by Lenny Markh

The following is a press release from the offices of Councilman Lew Fidler:

City Councilman Lew Fidler is proud to announce that the City Council unanimously voted, at their Stated Meeting yesterday, to approve his bill requiring gas stations to clearly display, on roadside signs, all of the prices they charge – no matter if a customer uses cash or credit.

Under State law, gas stations are not allowed to charge extra when customers choose to pay by credit card rather than cash. Yet, throughout the City, gas stations have skirted this by instead offering a ‘cash discount.’ Even worse, the roadside signs used by these gas stations often displayed only the cash price. The higher price for credit card purchases, which most of their customers were likely paying, was generally left off the sign entirely. Only the word ‘cash,’ sometimes hidden in tiny letters, was there to warn drivers that they might end up paying more.

“This is a loophole the size of a truck,” said Councilman Fidler. “You can call this a legal fiction or a distinction without a difference, but either way, New Yorkers just call it absurd. By the time you park your car next to the pump it’s too late to be told what the actual price you’ll be paying is. Gas is too expensive already for us to allow gimmicks and tricks to make it cost even more. Drivers need to know what the price is when they’re driving by, so they can decide where to take their business. It’s basic transparency and it’s basic consumer protection.”

Councilman Fidler’s bill will now require that all gas stations in the City of New York display all of the gas prices they charge, on required roadside signs. Stations that charge the same price for all forms of payment would only have to display the one price, while those that differentiate prices would have to post every one of their different prices. The bill also requires that clear lettering and wording be used for these prices, so drivers with only a second to glance at the signs can easily read them.

“This bill will give drivers the information they need,” Fidler said. “And, with information comes power – the power to be an informed shopper and, hopefully, the power to create some small measure of price competition between gas stations. If gas stations want to offer discounts they still can – but it has to be done openly and without hiding the price that most of their customers will be paying.”

Councilman Fidler expressed his thanks to Speaker Christine Quinn and Council Member Dan Garodnick, Chairman of the Council’s Committee on Consumer Affairs, as well as to all of his Council colleagues for their support for his bill.

“Sometimes you get an opportunity to do something about a problem that just gnaws at the innards of New Yorkers. I know this was one of those for many of us and I am sure that we will be happier to see this bait and switch tactic vanish once and for all,” Councilman Fidler added.

The Mayor is expected to sign the bill next week, and it will take effect 120 days after being signed into law.

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  • Metsknicks

    Great idea. The station owners lure you in with what appears to be a good price that’s posted on their sign. However you pull into the station based on that price, only to find the credit card price is generally ten cents higher.

    I also thought there was a limit on how often a station can change their prices within twenty four hours. I’ve seen the BP/Amoco station on Ocean and Jerome Aves.next to St, Marks Church raise their prices within the same day. In addition, he seems to raise his prices, sometimes by a large amount, much quicker than his competition.

  • arniethek

    This is a helpful piece of consumer leglslation. Now I can drive passed gas stations that charge me extra for credit card purchases. When unscupulous operators start losing credit sales, maybe they’ll stop this two-tiered pricing nonsense.

    A related practice that annoys me concerns retailers who do not process credit sales below a certain dollar threshhold, say $10.00. As I understand it, retailers cannot
    impose arbitary restrictions on the use of credit. Those who do, can have their credit privileges revoked. Has anyone else had any experience with this?

    • Igor S

      You are right the $10 min is quite annoying. It all has to do with the fees the merchant pays for processing your purchase. For many businesses like a 99 cent store that have low per transaction totals, that 3% they pay in fees could be the difference between profit and lose. While i feel for the business owner it is a common practice and one that can get you in trouble.

      On a positive note i have seen businesses like Arbuz post a sign asking customers to not use there cards for small amounts and i can definitly respect that.

  • guest

    A bit off topic but its like stores like dunkin donuts and that have signs up that they will not accept a bill over $20. Isn’t that illegal?

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

      The MTA has had that policy for years.

    • Jackie

      Why would it be illegal to not accept someone’s money? The law doesn’t require you to serve every customer that comes in.

    • Anon

      “Private businesses are free to develop their own policies on whether or not to accept cash unless there is a State law which says otherwise.”

      From: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/currency/pages/legal-tender.aspx Top paragraph.

  • Tinman

    However, if you use the station’s gas brand’s credit card, you pay the same as cash.

    • Lew from Brooklyn

      Some do. Some don’t. Now the sigll have to tell you that.
      Lew from Brooklyn

  • dgreatone

    Finally!!