The crusade to get Michigan’s attorney general to investigate Fowlerville’s gas stations for price-fixing and collusion has a precedent: In 2011, five gas stations in Madison Heights were found guilty of doing exactly what I believe the Fowlerville gas stations are doing now.
And for those who say the attorney general will never investigate gas stations for price-fixing and collusion, this shows they’re wrong. He has investigated them, he has charged them, and they have been found guilty.
This shows that we have precedent on our side in this fight, and it should give hope to all of us who are now enlisted in the Fowlerville Gas Prices Army.
It happened in Madison Heights back in 2011, shortly after Bill Schuette took office as Michigan’s attorney general.
(Side note: As you know, Schuette will be leaving office in a few weeks. If his office decides not to pursue this case, we’ll fire it up again when the new attorney general, Dana Nessel, takes office in January. We aren’t resting until one of them starts to investigate.)
According to an old press release from Schuette’s office, and reports from the Detroit Free Press, what happened in the Madison Heights case is this. And you’ll notice how strikingly similar this is to what’s happening in Fowlerville:
- In June of 2011, Schuette charged five gas stations in Madison Heights with price fixing after conducting an investigation in February and March. From the press release: “The stations were all located within two miles of each other in Madison Heights. An investigation by Schuette’s office revealed the details of the price-fixing scheme, which involved the five stations setting their gasoline prices at an artificial level, within a penny or two of each other.”
- As to why he was filing charges, Schuette said, “Price-fixing undermines the free market and sticks consumers with the bill. It’s illegal in any industry, but is particularly egregious as Michigan drivers struggle with rising gas prices.”
- The gas station owners at first vigorously denied the charges. According to an article in the Detroit Free Press, attorney David Griem said, “These charges are an outrage.”
- Well, by December, the charges were no longer an outrage. Four of the stations pleaded guilty to price fixing, and one of them pleaded no contest. According to another old article, all five stations were forced to pay “substantial fines.”
So, this case should tell us several things:
- There’s precedence for the Michigan attorney general to charge gas stations for price fixing.
- There’s precedence for Michigan gas stations to pay substantial fines if they’re found guilty.
- What happened in Madison Heights in 2011 is exactly what’s happening in Fowlerville today.
In Madison Heights, they observed that the five stations all had their inflated prices “within a penny or two of each other.” In Fowlerville, the four stations near I-96 aren’t just within a penny or two of each other; they’re always EXACTLY the same.
As of this morning, those four stations had their prices at $2.99 a gallon. The BP station in downtown Fowlerville, which is just as guilty in all of this, is at $2.95. (They’re always four cents cheaper than the I-96 stations.)
The statewide average is $2.56.
You have your evidence, Mr. Attorney General. And you have your precedence. Now, please do what’s right.