FORT MYERS BEACH - Tropical Storm Isaac could impact your wallet the next time you fill up your car.
Brittany Greenwood drives a big SUV, so she is always looking for cheap gas prices. Now, with Tropical Storm Isaac looming, prices are going up.
"We're going to need gas in order to get our supplies," said Greenwood. "They're totally taking advantage of the people around here."
Greenwood runs a Fort Myers Beach shop called Brittany and Sondra's Furniture Consignment. Overnight, she says the 7-Eleven across the street raised its price by eight cents to $3.75.
"You notice one cent here, one cent there," said Greenwood. "But eight cents? It's just ridiculous."
Fox 4 found other gas stations advertising similar prices. We found a Hess and Sunoco charging $3.73 a gallon and a Citgo for $3.75.
But other stations haven't raised their rates - at least not yet. The Shell/Circle K up the road from Greenwood's shop and the 7-Eleven charging $3.75, was selling gas for $3.67 a gallon Friday.
We also found a Chevron in Cape Coral selling gas for $3.69.
Customers think the storm is to blame.
"I'm sure that's why the price has gone up," said Eric Stainbrook. "It's not right. We're the people here getting taken advantage of."
"Price gouging is kind of a good idea in a situation like this," said Bryant Palmer. "Why not take advantage of the tourists and the people in this certain situation?"
So why are some gas stations more expensive than others? We asked the experts at GasBuddy.com
"They may have simply not matched or noticed that their competitors increased their price," said petroleum expert Patrick DeHaan.
The wholesale price of gas has increased 12 cents since Monday, according to DeHaan, in part due to Tropical Storm Isaac.
Gulf Coast refineries could slow, or stop production depending on the severity of the storm, said DeHaan. With gas stations buying at once the supply decreases while the demand increases causing prices to go up.
As gas stations stock up before the storm to meet an increased demand they are paying higher wholesale prices, and that cost is passed on to consumers.
"Tropical Storm Isaac is looking like a major impact on gasoline prices," said DeHaan. "At least to this point."
Florida does have price gouging laws which prohibits gas stations from raising prices to an amount that grossly exceeds the monthly average. The law takes effect only after the governor declares a state of emergency.
Statement from 7-Eleven:
We are currently operating all of our fuel markets across the U.S. and Canada (including all of Florida) based on the same market factors that we follow day in and day out. When we sell fuel at retail stations, the margins are small on each gallon so it is important to react quickly to changes in the cost of fuels that we acquire for sale.
Some facts that may help explain the specific changes you’ve seen in Florida recently are:
- Fuel product costs have increased 9 cents in the last 3 days due to normal market supply and demand
- Thursday, the 23rd, a major competitor in the area increased their prices by 6 cents
- Our recent price change that you noted was a move that matched their price
- By now, hopefully you have noticed (as we have today) that most major competitors in the area have similar pricing due to the recent increases in supply costs
Although the area is not yet under a state of emergency due to the potential storms, we are closely monitoring the situation and will follow the guidelines that such a issuance would place upon us and our stores in the area so that we hopefully will continue to be perceived by our guests as the best neighborhood provider of convenience for their needs.
Attorney General response:
Florida price gouging law states that during a state of emergency, it is unlawful to sell, lease, offer to sell, or offer for lease essential commodities, dwelling units, or self-storage facilities for an amount that grossly exceeds the average price for that commodity during the 30 days before the declaration of the state of emergency, unless the seller can justifying the price by showing increases in its prices or market trends.
Under Florida Statute, the state's price gouging law does not take effect unless and until the Governor declares a state of emergency. Such a declaration regarding Tropical Storm Isaac has not yet been issued. When such a declaration is made, the Attorney General's Office will be prepared
to document and investigate any allegations of price gouging that it might receive from consumers.