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New York Association of Convenience Stores Responds To Brindisi’s Gas Price Gouging Allegations

Ewen Roberts, flickr

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi is stirring up some controversy with the New York Association of Convenience Stores.

The Assemblyman recently asked Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate the retail gas pricing in the Utica Rome market.

But, Jim Calvin, President of the NYACS, says he’s confused by the request.

“We were surprised when we learned that Assemblyman Brindisi was asking the Attorney General to investigate the possibility of retail gas price gouging in the Utica-Rome area,” Calvin said. “Retailers around here are doing the very best they can to keep pump prices as competitive as they can.”

He says Brindisi is only looking at the small picture, and that as far back as a year ago, NYSERDA estimates noted that area gas prices were below the state average, ranging between three and eight cents. Calvin also says the Utica-Rome area has been steady, as the fifth highest region out of the eight represented in New York.

“Drawing conclusions based on a snapshot of data at any given moment in time is not a reliable indicator of prices in any particular region,” Calvin said. “It’s like Assemblyman Brindisi’s voting record. You can’t really base it on one vote on one issue or bill to get a portrait of his voting record. You need to examine a longer period of time.”

To him, the problem lies partially in world market affairs, something local gas stations cannot control. But, a smaller piece of the problem is attached to the county’s 4.75% sales tax rate.

“Most of the other regions have a four percent sales tax rate and that impacts the price of gas,” Calvin said. “If gas was $3.60 a gallon before the sales tax was applied, the four percent county sales tax in Syracuse would add 14.5 cents to the pump price, but a 4.75% sales tax rate in Utica would add 17 cents or more. Just that difference in county sales tax rate impacts the average retail pump price.”

Calvin says when gas prices are high retailers become easy scapegoats. But, the truth is that in most cases there is nothing to be done but raise prices.

“We just don’t have any control over what’s happening in the oil markets that are causing the surge in the wholesale price,” Calvin said. “And we don’t have any choice but to pass along those increases in the form of higher prices at the pump.”

He says the market has its own way of taking care of those offering unfair prices; competition will play out and high priced convenience stores will close.

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