High Gas Prices

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May 18, 2007 LITTLE ROCK As the summer travel season begins, vacationers nationwide hit the road. Traditionally, this increase in demand for gasoline has resulted in increased gasoline prices throughout the summer, and this year is no different. However, this year the seasonal price increases are coming on top of historically high gasoline prices, which has caused widespread consternation among Arkansas consumers. Today, Attorney General Dustin McDaniel issued a consumer alert to address some of the issues that have been voiced by a concerned public.As a general rule, the price of gasoline, like the price of any free-market commodity, is set by supply, demand and competition in the market, McDaniel said. Thus, we expect prices to rise as summer driving increases demand for gasoline. McDaniel noted, In addition to increased demand, gasoline production continues to be hampered by post-Katrina shutdowns and a more recent fire at an Oklahoma refinery. The damage to the Oklahoma refinery has been reported as one cause of the increased retail prices in Northwest Arkansas, an area served by suppliers out of Oklahoma. Some consumers have called on Attorney General McDaniel to use the Arkansas Price Gouging law to address the recent price increases. Act 376 of 1997 prohibits sellers of certain consumer goods and services from taking advantage of disaster victims by preventing price gouging in a state of emergency. After a state of emergency has been declared, the seller can raise prices by no more than 10 %, unless the seller can show that his own costs have increased. McDaniel pledged to monitor the situation, but noted that there is no current statewide declaration of emergency and that retail prices in areas recently hit by severe weather do not appear to be higher than prices in other areas of the state. One other area of concern is 'price fixing' which violates state and federal antitrust laws, McDaniel said. When stations or distributors reach agreements with their competition regarding prices they are violating price-fixing laws.If consumers have knowledge of illegal price-fixing by gas stations or companies