DA seeks to fine Meiners’ Market for alleged gasoline price gouging
Johnson County District Attorney Paul Morrison filed a civil lawsuit against Meiners' Market alleging gasoline price gouging in the wake of last week's terrorist attacks.
The action came in Friday in Johnson County District Court. Morrison filed a civil suit alleging the Meiners' market stores in De Soto and south Overland Park violated the Kansas Consumer Protection Act when they increased gas prices Sep. 11. Similar action was taken against two other Johnson County gas stations.
For an hour on the afternoon of the attacks, Meiners' Market in De Soto raised prices on regular unleaded gasoline from$1.69 a gallon to $5.63 a gallon The store apologized the next day and starting offering refunds to customers. That may get the store off the hook with the Kansas Attorney General Carla Stovall, but not with Morrison.
"The attorney general has offered some retailers who raised prices to $2.50 or more an opportunity to avoid legal action if they make restitution," he said. "It does not affect our cases."
Should the district court side with Morrison, Meiners' Market could be fined $1,000 per violation.
"Our petition alleges one violation," he said. "Over the next couple of days, we'll decide how many specific acts we want to allege."
Last week, De Soto Meiners' Market manager Adrian Velazquez said he made the "regrettable" decision to increase the price of gasoline so that the store wouldn't run out of gas. The day after the price increase, the store apologized and started offering refunds.
Tuesday, Velazquez said he was more concerned with the community's response to store's action than any legal action.
"The legal thing is out of my hands," he said. "As manager here, I still feel the same way. We have the responsibility to make things right."
Gas sales have been off the past week, Velazquez said, but other areas of the store are doing fine. He said it was difficult to say how much the incident is costing the store because rainy weather and the national crisis restricted travel.
If De Soto school board member Curtis Allenbrand had his way, the incident would have cost the store the school district's business.
"I won't purchase anything from them anymore for what they did," Allenbrand said. "Sure they can apologize, but that doesn't make it right."
Although board member Marsha Bennett agreed the gas station was wrong for raising prices, she said a boycott should be an individual decision, not one for the board to maker.
But other board members informed Bennett that the school district holds business associations with the store,
Board member Bill Waye said he would support any decision to do businesses elsewhere.
"We should send a message that this kind of reaction to a crisis is not acceptable," Waye said.
The district will continue doing business with Meiners'. But the board agreed to write a letter expressing it's disappointed with the store and that any future attempt to take advantage of the citizens of the district would not be tolerated.