2006-02-17 / Columnists

Notes On Consumer Affairs

Pinched At The Gas Pump?
By Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer

Audrey Pheffer
Audrey Pheffer If you are feeling pinched at the gas pump, you are not alone. The rising gas prices have been an almost universal topic of conversation lately.

In order to address this issue and gather more information, my colleagues and I recently held a hearing on gas and home energy prices and will soon be convening another hearing on the issue.

It is important that we monitor the situation to ensure that price gouging is not occurring.

New York’s price gouging law applies when a gasoline retailer, producer, or distributor drastically increases prices without justification during a natural disaster.

However, it is not considered price gouging when a natural disaster increases costs, which may then be passed on to consumers in the form of higher gasoline prices. Since 1998, I have sponsored legislation that would discourage price gouging and provide individuals with the ability to seek restitution for damages resulting from this unscrupulous business practice.

I have also recently introduced a resolution calling upon the U.S. Congress to enact legislation to update the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) fuel economy testing procedures in absence of the EPA taking action to revise its testing procedures.

In a recent issue, Consumer Reports compared the EPA fuel economy estimates with their own fuel economy testing results for over three-hundred vehicles for model-years 2000 to 2006.

These results showed that 90 % of vehicles tested achieved fewer miles per gallon than the figure reported by the EPA, and that several models fell short of the EPA estimates by as much as 35 to 50%. This means that American Consumers spent approximately $20 billion more on gasoline in 2004 than they would have expected to pay based on the EPA fuel economy estimates.

There are also some measures that consumers can take to save money by maximizing the fuel efficiency of their vehicles. These include things such as driving less aggressively.

Speeding, rapid acceleration and braking can lower gas mileage by as much as 33% when driving on the highway and as much as 5% when driving in town according to the United States Department of Energy.

According to recent statistics, each five miles per hour over sixty miles per hour is equivalent to paying an additional $0.21 per gallon of gas.

Consumers can also increase their vehicle’s efficiency by keeping their vehicle in shape. This includes changing the air filter regularly, keeping tires properly inflated, and maintaining wheel alignments, as well as not idling unnecessarily.

Using websites like www.gasbuddy.com, which lists the lowest and highest gas prices by area, may also prove to be cost-saving.

Consumers can compare prices and report price gouging on the New York State Consumer Protection Board’s website at www.consumer. state.ny.us.

To learn more about increasing your vehicle’s fuel economy, visit the United States Department of Energy’s fuel efficiency website at www.fueleconomy.gov or the Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.ftc.gov.

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