NEWARK – Acting Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck today announced that the Division of Consumer Affairs has reached a settlement agreement for more than $138,000 involving five Essex County gas stations that were found to be overcharging consumers, including by selling regular fuel as premium.
The agreement resolves the investigation led by the Division’s Office of Weights and Measures and Office of Consumer Protection into violations of multiple New Jersey consumer protection laws and regulations following unannounced fuel quality inspections at several gas stations.
In addition to making a monetary payment, K.P. Fuel Corp., BK Fuel, Inc., DS Fuel Corp., Millennium Fuel, Inc., and Harb and Parm, Inc. d/b/a Power Services Center, and their owner Sukhdev Singh of Belleville, have agreed to display the accurate price of any motor fuel they offer or sell and not to misrepresent one grade of fuel as another.
“New Jersey drivers should be able to fill their gas tanks without getting taken for a ride,” said Acting Attorney General Bruck. “Gas stations are on notice that we won’t stand for them cheating their customers.” The sale of regular gas as premium not only causes consumers to overpay but also threatens damage to their vehicles.
The majority of cars on the road today run on regular gas, but some vehicles require premium, which contains higher levels of octane and typically costs about 50 cents more per gallon. Regular gasoline in a vehicle designed to use premium can self-ignite. This can lead to a persistent knocking sound in the engine and, in severe cases, can cause significant engine damage such as broken connecting rods, melted pistons, or other damaged components.
“Whether consumers choose regular or premium gasoline for their vehicles, we want them to know that our office is committed to ensure that they get what they pay for at the pump,” said Acting Director of Consumer Affairs Sean P. Neafsey. “I applaud the Office of Weights and Measures for their diligent fuel quality inspections and everyone responsible for implementing greater accountability.”
The Division conducted its inspections between July 31, 2019 and September 25, 2020.
Its investigation concerned violations of the Consumer Fraud Act; the Weights and Measures Act; the Motor Fuels Act; the Regulations Governing the Retail Sale of Motor Fuels; and the Scales, Instruments and Devices Regulations.
The respondent gas stations are:
Under the terms of the Consent Order, the respondents also agreed to maintain weighing and measuring devices in proper operating condition at the gas stations, to exhibit all required documentation for inspection and examination, and to comply with all state and federal laws and regulations.
The total settlement of over $138,000 includes $114,200 in civil penalties and $24,319 in investigative costs and attorneys’ fees. Under the terms of the Order, $27,519 in civil penalties are suspended and will be automatically vacated after one year if the respondents comply with the terms of the Order. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Koziar of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law’s Affirmative Civil Enforcement Practice Group represented the State in the matter. Supervisor James Wilton from the Office of Weights and Measures and Investigator Roger Hines of the Office of Consumer Protection within the Division of Consumer Affairs conducted the investigation. Inspector Bryan Thomson from the Office of Weights and Measures was responsible for identifying the octane deficiencies and gathering documentation for the investigation.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file an online complaint with the Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 to receive a complaint form by mail.
The mission of the Division of Consumer Affairs, within the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to protect the public from fraud, deceit, misrepresentation and professional misconduct in the sale of goods and services in New Jersey through education, advocacy, regulation and enforcement. The Division pursues its mission through its 51 professional and occupational boards that oversee 720,000 licensees in the state, its Regulated Business section that oversees 60,000 NJ registered businesses, as well as through its Office of Consumer Protection, Bureau of Securities, Charities Registration section, Office of Weights and Measures, and Legalized Games of Chance section.