Jessica A. Chittenden|
May 28, 2008
New York State Allows Half-Pricing at Gas Pumps
Regulations Help Keep Small Retailers Operating; Stations Must Apply
New York State Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Hooker today announced that gas stations with non-digital fuel dispensers can apply for half-gallon pricing, since older equipment cannot compute prices in excess of $3.999. Signs advertising fuel prices must still advertise the price for a full gallon of fuel, but the price displayed on the pump would be half the per-gallon price.
"The price of fuel is rising faster than our dispensers can calculate in some instances," the Commissioner said. "In order to keep some of our smaller and seasonal fuel retailers operating during times of $4 fuel, we are temporarily allowing stations to compute prices by using half the price per gallon. We are fortunate to have this provision in our regulations as it gives us the tools to respond very quickly during times of escalating fuel prices and keep these small businesses in business."
Many of the older style mechanical dispensers use numbered wheels to display the gallons and total sale figures. The regulation, signed today by the Commissioner, allows gas stations to compute prices at one-half the price per gallon, until they have the dispenser upgraded with a replacement computer.
New York State Division of Weights and Measures Director Ross Andersen said, "The older equipment meets the same accuracy requirements as the newer electronic equipment, it just lacks the bells and whistles, like the pay-at-the-pump feature. Once these retailers have the updated equipment, it is generally a quick fix."
Under this regulation, the total charge for fuel will remain the same. The sign on front of the dispenser, as well as the signs on top of the pump and along the roads will remain at the full price per gallon to allow for easy price comparisons. The only difference would be on the front of the dispenser, it would read "one-half total sale" and "one-half price per gallon." Therefore, the total charge for a purchase would have to be calculated by doubling the price on the dispenser.
The half-price option for fuel dispenser was added to State regulations in the early 1980ís when the price of fuel increased over $1.999 per gallon. The regulations were last utilized in the fall of 2005 when prices moved over $2.999 per gallon. This time, the replacement computer should extend price computing capability to $9.99 per gallon.
The problem results from a national shortage of replacement computers. The primary U.S. manufacturer of this equipment has a present backlog of 13 weeks for delivery. A local source of re-built equipment is also reporting backlogs of 17 weeks. Once the new equipment is delivered, the installation is simple and involves unbolting the old computer, bolting on the new one, and setting the price per gallon.
The regulation only impacts retail dealers that use mechanical price computing equipment in their dispensers. There are approximately 6,500 retail gas stations with more than 90,000 retail dispensers in New York State. While exact numbers of stations affected are not available, it is estimated that it is not more than 5 percent of the total dispensers statewide. Each dispenser is inspected and tested for accuracy at least once a year by a State or municipal inspector.
The Departmentís Division of Weights and Measures is now accepting applications for eligible retail stations to sell half-price fuel. Applications are available on the Departmentís website at www.agriculture.ny.gov and by clicking on "Fuel Pump Half-Pricing Request Form" or by calling 518-457-3146.
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