‘Bait and switch?’ New bills aim to make Md. gas station signs more transparent

February 8, 2023


hearing will be held in the Maryland Senate Thursday on a bill that’s meant to make sure consumers pay for gasoline at the rate shown on signs towering over gas stations.

Marylanders may have found that the price of gasoline listed outside is cheaper than what they actually pay at the pump, that’s because the state requires gas stations to post the lowest price of regular gas.

But many gas stations charge more if you pay with a credit or debit card (which, an AAA Mid Atlantic study found, most Marylanders do). Paying with cash is, typically, the cheapest option.

Some state senators are trying to remedy the burn that comes from swiping a credit card to buy gas.

Maryland State Sen. Cheryl Kagan introduced the Gas Price Gouging Act in late January. Senate Bill 178 would require that gas stations post the price of gas when purchased with a credit card. It also removes prior signage exemptions for some stations.

“The practice of only posting the cash price for gas is a ‘bait and switch’ for consumers,” Kagan said in a news release. “Consumers should be aware of the price they will pay before pulling into the gas station.”

Nearly 90% of Marylanders pay for gas with a credit or debit card, according to a 2019 study from AAA Mid Atlantic. That number is in line with the nationwide average.

The state Senate is expected to hold a hearing on the bill on Thursday at 1 p.m. and the new rules would take effect Oct. 1, 2023.

Montgomery Co. proposes gas bill in the same vein

Legislation echoing the same requirements for posting the credit card price (Bill 7-23) was introduced by Montgomery County on Tuesday by Council member Gabe Albornoz.

“The intent of the existing state requirement to display the lowest price of regular gasoline overlooks that most consumers use credit cards to purchase gas,” Albornoz said. “Our residents find the lack of disclosing the credit price to be misleading and frustrating.”

The bill seems to have wide support among council members, with the majority of members signing onto the bill as co-sponsors.

A public hearing on the Montgomery County bill is scheduled for Feb. 28 at 1:30 p.m.