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State inspectors on the lookout for price gouging at gas stations

With gas prices rising steadily in recent weeks, Governor Deval Patrick has directed state inspectors to step up efforts to ensure that gas stations are not engaged in price gouging, false advertising, and other deceptive practices, state officials said on Sunday.

“We want to get ahead of the curve here,” said Barbara Anthony, the state’s undersecretary of consumer affairs and business regulation, in a phone interview. “We want to make sure that no one’s even thinking about price-gouging.”

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Anthony said that while nine inspectors perform regular audits of gas stations to ensure compliance with state regulations, Patrick has asked for increased oversight in light of recent price hikes nationwide.

In a statement, Anthony’s office cited data from a AAA report showing that gasoline prices have risen for 11 consecutive weeks, and that Bay State drivers are currently paying $3.73 per gallon on average, up from $3.30 at this time last year.

In addition to price gouging, the nine field inspectors will also be on the lookout for stations that violate advertising rules, including posting sidewalk signs with lower prices than the rates at the pump, the statement said.

Stations that violate advertising regulations can be fined up to $375 for each offense, according to the statement.

Anthony said that while the industry is generally compliant with state law, inspectors cited a handful of stations last year in the Boston area for inaccurate signage, and the issues were quickly rectified.

Travis Andersen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.
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