March 30, 2023
The Montgomery County Council in Maryland passed a law Tuesday mandating that gas station owners post both the lowest price and, if applicable, the credit card price for regular gasoline.
The law will go into effect six months after it is signed into law by Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich.
While at some gas stations the lowest price and the credit card price are the same, at other stations the lowest price is only for cash purchases.
Maryland state legislation passed in 1980 only mandates that the lowest regular gasoline price be posted. As such, these stations are allowed to solely display the lower cash price, which can confuse motorists unaware that credit card purchases cost more.
“We have all experienced that moment of noting the posted price of a gallon of gas, pulling up to the pump and then realizing that the credit price is much higher. … Our residents find the lack of disclosing the credit price to be misleading and frustrating,” Council member Gabe Albornoz, who introduced Bill 7-23, said in a statement.
The bill is identical to Maryland Senate Bill 178, introduced by state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Democrat who represents Montgomery County’s District 17. The legislation is still in the committee referral stage.
“The practice of only posting the cash price for gas is a ‘bait and switch’ for consumers. Consumers should be aware of the price they will pay before pulling into the gas station,” Ms. Kagan said in a statement.
Nearly 90% of Marylanders use credit or debit cards to purchase gasoline, according to testimony by the American Automobile Association’s mid-Atlantic branch in favor of an earlier proposal.
The business community, however, opposes the new law, contending that, since existing gas station signs are not designed to accommodate an additional price, new signs will have to be purchased, the cost of which would be prohibitive for some gas station owners.
In a memo included in a Montgomery County Council staff report on the bill, Kirk McCauley of the Washington, Maryland, Delaware Service Station and Automotive Repair Association/Council of Automotive Repair (WMDA/CAR) said that costs could go up to $12,000 for used signs and $25,000 for new signs.
These costs could force gas stations to eliminate cash discounts and car wash deals.
Mr. McCauley also pointed out how few complaints were submitted about gas station signs; only 20 for all of fiscal year 2022, which, according to WMDA/CAR, is one complaint for every seven million or so transactions.
To alleviate the burden on gas station operators in the interim, they will be allowed to use a separate sign to display the credit card price of regular gasoline for up to seven years after the law goes into effect.