In a victory for QuikTrip, 7-Eleven and Kum & Go, selling “hot fuel”—gasoline that is not adjusted for its temperature—does not violate the Kansas Consumer Protection Act, a federal jury in Kansas City, Kansas, said last week, according to a report by The Kansas City Star. The case was the first to come to a jury verdict in years of legal proceedings, the report said. The jurors found, 10 to 0, that selling fuel over the industry’s 60-degree standard was not “deceptive” under the state law.
Although this verdict affects only the defendants in this case, in Kansas, it is a major win for the oil industry, the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of America (SIGMA), said in a news alert to its members after the ruling. “If the jury had found in favor of the plaintiffs, some fuel marketers would have had to install automatic temperature compensation (ATC) devices on their pumps, which cost approximately $2,000 per dispenser,” the group said.
BP Products North America Inc., ConocoPhillips Co., Shell Oil Products US, Casey’s General Stores Inc., and Valero Marketing & Supply Co., as well as Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Sam’s Club, and Costco, settled earlier this year regarding their sales practices in Kansas and other states.
The terms of the settlements varied, but included such steps as telling consumers the temperature of the fuel they were buying, or putting in pumps that adjusted the volume of a gallon for temperature, especially in hotter states. The verdict affirmed that the retailers “were doing what we were supposed to do by law,” Mike Thornbrugh, a spokesperson for Tulsa, Okla.-based QuikTrip, told the paper.
Another charge—whether the practice was “unconscionable”—has yet to be decided, and is up to Judge Kathryn Vratil, rather than a jury, said the report.
Class-action claims for damages and injunctive relief against motor fuel retailers have been filed in 26 states. The plaintiffs claim that because defendants sell motor fuel for a specified price per gallon without disclosing or adjusting for temperature expansion, they are liable under state law theories which include breach of contract, breach of warranty, fraud, and consumer protection. (CSP Daily News: www.cspnet.com)