Commissioner: Gas stations falsely advertise prices

By Ross Palombo, Investigative Reporter, rpalombo@Local10.com
Published On: Mar 21 2013 06:29:28 PM EDT
Updated On: Mar 21 2013 11:00:00 PM EDT

Local 10's Ross Palombo investigates gas stations in Broward County posting lower cash prices on their signs but charging credit card-using customers more, which is against a county ordinance.

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. -

Broward County is the first county in the nation to have an ordinance that requires gas stations to post the highest price per gallon on the big signs out front.

Still, some stations post the cash price on the big signs and only post the higher credit price in small numbers at the pump.

"It's false advertising. It's a big problem in Broward County," said Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler.

Sometimes people don't notice the difference while filling up.

At a Universal Gas Station on Hollywood Boulevard and 67th Avenue, Local 10's Ross Palombo spoke to a woman who found out she was paying 10 cents more a gallon than was advertised on the station’s front sign.

"Oh, wow. I did not notice that. Why? It's such a fake,” said Dana Widlan.

Inspectors said this particular station has already been fined $250 for not posting prices correctly. After Local 10 reported this latest incident, inspectors fined the station $500, pending a hearing.

Inspectors said there appears to be a similar problem at an Amerika station on Sunrise Boulevard. Local 10 found several people at the station paying more than they believed.

Palombo pointed to the sign out front that had a price of $3.74 and asked one man if that’s what he paid.

"No," customer Justin Chuven said.

It turns out, Chuven paid $3.82 a gallon.

"Who is going to fix it?" said Chuven.

Three inspectors said they have been trying to fix the problem for six months.

"You have 10 days to come into compliance with a notice of violation," said inspector Eric Flood.

According to officials, all of the 95 stations in the county were notified when the law went into effect more than six months ago. One-third of the stations, or more than 30 of them, have been cited since then for violations.

"That's just not fair to the public," said Wexler. 

Wexler wrote the ordinance. She said she’s not surprised stations are still playing with the prices.

"People are greedy," she said. "For those who live paycheck to paycheck, it's a lot."

Since the initial citations, the advertising at 23 stations has been corrected. Inspectors said new problems are emerging, though.

"They change it," Wexler said, "and they go back to bad behavior again."

That's what inspectors said happened at the Universal gas station.

"Everyone knows," a clerk there told Palombo.

"Everyone knows?" said Palombo. "So, why haven't they fixed it then?"

"Really, I don't know," the clerk said.

Until everyone knows and obeys the law, the county says it's up to customers to be in the know and insist on change by gassing up at stations where the highest prices are displayed on the signs.

"Maybe I should go somewhere else," said customer Melissa Ramlal.

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