State investigates Anoka gas-price war

Rochester Post-Bulletin/April 11, 2005

Anoka, Minn. – The state Commerce Department has 13 active investigations involving stations allegedly selling gasoline for less than Minnesota’s legal minimum price, spokesman Bruce Gordon said.

Since 2001, Minnesota has required that gasoline prices be set each day based on a formula that includes wholesale prices, fees and taxes. Violators face civil penalties and may appeal to an administrative law judge.

The intent of the law was to prevent station owners from selling below cost and prevent large operations from squeezing smaller operators out of business, Gordon said.

However, he said, “Our experience is that there are some David-versus-Goliath complaints, but more David-versus-David.”

One of the investigations involves the Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology of Shawano, Wis., whose subsidiary Midwest Oil of Minnesota owns gas stations in Anoka, Albert Lea and St. Paul.

On Thursday, the company’s newly opened Exxon station at U.S. 10 and Cutters Grove Avenue in Anoka, which boasted “This Is My Station” on the marquee, advertised regular unleaded gas for $2.11. Minnesota’s legal minimum price that day was $2.05. However, the station also posted a sign saying, “ALL GAS DISCOUNT 10 PER GALLON,” in effect putting its price 4 cents below the legal minimum.

By Friday, prices at several stations in the area had fallen a dime or more from Thursday’s prices. The Exxon station’s posted price was $2.01.

“How do you possibly give that much money away?” asked Sid Haugtvedt, whose nearby Phillips 66 station advertised regular unleaded for $2.13 a gallon Thursday and $2.01 per gallon Friday.

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