D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing the city’s biggest gasoline distributor of using the coronavirus pandemic as a “business opportunity” to nearly double its profits by inflating pump prices.
Capital Petroleum Group “took advantage of the emergency to roughly double its average retail profits per gallon of gas at the expense of consumers in potentially thousands of transactions — although gas prices were falling at the time,” Mr. Racine said in a press release.
The complaint says Capital Petroleum Group, the leading distributor of gasoline in the District, and two of its affiliates, Anacostia Realty LLC and DAG Petroleum Suppliers LLC, gouged prices at 54 gas stations. The Office of Consumer Protection joined the Attorney General’s Office in the suit.
Shortly after the District entered a state of emergency in March, Capital Petroleum’s average profit reportedly doubled from 44 cents a gallon of regular gas to 88 cents, while the profit from a gallon of premium jumped from 80 cents to $1.23.
An Office of Consumer Protection investigation shows that three weeks into the emergency, the distributor’s average markup for a gallon of gas sold to other gas stations rose from 41.6% to 149.8%.
The 13-page civil suit asks a District Superior Court judge to order the defendants to stop the unlawful activity, to pay civil penalties and to pay damages to the affected consumers. Price gouging penalties in D.C. can cost up to $5,000 per violation.
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