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Greg Bluestein

Georgia fields dozens of gas gouging complaints from frustrated motorists

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Some gas stations had bags over their pumps and no pricing on their gas signs on Monday. JOHN SPINK /JSPINK@AJC.COM

Some gas stations had bags over their pumps and no pricing on their gas signs on Monday. JOHN SPINK /JSPINK@AJC.COM

Georgia officials have received dozens of complaints of gas stations charging gouging fuel prices as a pipeline spill in Alabama continued to frustrate drivers.

The Georgia Consumer Protection Unit said it has received at least 81 gas gouging complaints since the Colonial Pipeline leak last week threatened fuel supplies in metro Atlanta, leading to long lines and dry pumps in parts of the region.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed an executive order banning gas stations from gas gouging, echoing a state law that already prohibits gas stations from significantly hiking prices during a “state of emergency.”

The law requires gas stations to charge the same price they did immediately before a state of emergency unless there’s “an increase in cost of the goods or services to the person selling the goods or services or an increase in the cost of transporting the goods or services into the area.”

Station owners caught gouging customers could face a maximum civil penalty of $5,000 per violation.

The pipeline is one of two main suppliers of fuel to metro Atlanta, and Deal and other Southern governors last week issued emergency orders to lift restrictions on truck drivers to help guarantee more fuel deliveries. The leak – and an increase in demand from drivers – has caused a significant spike in Georgia gas prices.

The average price of a gallon of unleaded in metro Atlanta was $2.51 on Monday morning, compared with $2.16 a week ago. The nationwide average is $2.21, according to AAA.

More fuel could soon be flowing into Georgia. Colonial Pipeline said Tuesday that it had finished a temporary pipeline to bypass the damaged link that leaked more than 250,000 gallons of fuel near Helena, Ala. If tests go well, it could restart pumping fuel on the main pipeline by Wednesday, though it warned there could still be spotty outages.

Drivers who want to file a gas gouging complaint can visit the Consumer Protection Unit’s website or call the division at 404-651-8600.

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