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Public watchdogs asking California's attorney general to look into price gouging

Posted at 7:32 PM, Mar 11, 2022

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — San Diego gas rose another 2 cents today to $5.73 a gallon. A public watchdog group is now calling on the Attorney General's Office to investigate our state's oil refineries.

This public advocacy group believes that what we pay now is about $1.30 more than what we should be paying. They are asking for an anti-trust investigation to be conducted.

Yet, the AG's office says that these prices are not enough to trigger the state's price gouging law from going into effect.

"We are paying for tomorrow's price of oil today, and that's not fair," explains Charles Langley.

Langley is the Executive Director of Public Watchdogs.

He filed a letter to Attorney General Rob Bonta, asking him to investigate the high gas prices. Langley believes that they are not matching past and current oil prices.

"The idea that because oil went up today it has to be reflected in the street price tomorrow is completely specious," explains Langley.

"Yet the oil industry has kind of conditioned the market to believe that this is the way markets work, that's not a free market system."

Langley explains that when one of California's fourteen refineries purchases a barrel of oil, it takes anywhere from 60 days to 3 months to make it into gasoline.

According to Business Insider, when a barrel of crude oil was at its peak on March 8th, it cost $123. On Thursday, it dropped to $106. Yet what we pay at the pump has only continued to climb.

"Part of this is the way the industry is structured," Langley explains. "And that is the price won't go down until the oil companies stop charging their dealers more for their oil."

The Attorney General's Office tells ABC10 News that they can't address Public Watchdog's letter in specific as it is considered confidential law enforcement records of the Attorney General.

However, AG Rob Bonta's Office notes that the state's price gouging law can not be triggered unless the State of Emergency is declared at the federal, state, or local level.

They also released this statement to ABC10 News:

"We're closely monitoring the market, and laws prohibiting deceptive pricing, price-fixing or other antitrust violations remain in effect."

Yet Langley is asking for more.

He states, "We need to really look at what's really going on."

He believes the potential price gouging could be because when oil refineries work together, prices tend to go up. He shares that drivers then get stuck with sticky prices that do not go down.

"There's competition but it's not the kind of competition where people are really fighting, it's like the gentlemanly elbowing of dinner guests to a buffet table," Langley says. "And believe me right now, with these gas prices, the eating's are good."

The Attorney General's Office did say that if you believe price gouging is taking effect, you can file a complaint.