Consumer Alert: Gas stations’ cash price ads might be breaking the rules

Consumer Alert

The News10NBC Team details breaking News, Traffic and Weather.

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – This Consumer Alert is all about the price you pay with cash versus credit. A law went into effect in February mandating that businesses advertise the higher credit card price or both prices.

So, is it legal for gas stations to advertise just the cash price on the street? News10NBC’s Consumer Investigative Reporter Deanna Dewberry reached out to the governor’s office and is still waiting for an answer. She reached out to the attorney general’s office, the folks who enforce the law, and a spokesman there referred her to the Department of State. These folks produced a video to educate the public about the law, but they couldn’t give an answer either.  

The owner of a gas station in Macedon is advertising just the cash price at the sign facing the street, which is illegal. Then at the pump, the station owner advertises both the cash and credit price, showing the credit price that is 10 cents higher.

Is this legal? Since the folks with the state couldn’t seem to find an answer News10NBC reached out to a partner at the law firm Tully Rinckey.

Deanna Dewberry: “So to have the lower price at the street, is that in line with the law?

Don Chesworth: Not unless it also shows what the price is with the credit card. I believe that if you show the credit card price and the other price without a credit card, you’re okay, but you gotta show both.”

Don did acknowledge that a reasonable person might interpret this gas station’s signs as meeting the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law. Because the gas station is advertising both prices at the pump. Even though the sign facing the street appears to violate the law.

To be clear… It is legal for businesses to have a credit card surcharge because the credit card companies charge them a processing fee that they pass onto customers. But New York law mandates that either the higher price be posted or both prices, so consumers are clear about the price they’re paying before handing over the plastic.

After the story aired, News10NBC received a late response from the Department of State. It reads as follows:

“NYS General Business Law section 518 is silent on this point. Arguments could be made that the business is engaged in false advertising or a deceptive act and practice, but whether the facts rose to a violation of law or laws, are matters to be decided by a court of competent jurisdiction. The Division of Consumer Protection has no enforcement authority in any of the aforementioned causes of action.

Pursuant to Executive Law section 94-a(3)(a)(10), the Division recommends the best practice is for gas stations to post both the cash and credit price at the street view, so consumers are fully informed in the first instance before their decision to pull off the road and into the particular station.”