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  • Schuette: Department of Attorney General Won't Tolerate Gouging, Price Fixing at the Pump

    As Michigan drivers deal with a spike in gas prices, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today issued a warning to gas stations against any attempt to take advantage of consumers by price gouging or price fixing. “As Labor Day weekend approaches, the effects of an outage at a major Indiana petroleum refinery, combined with additional factors, means Michigan families are seeing an increase in the price at the pump. These circumstances do not constitute a free pass for gas stations to gouge consumers,” said Schuette.  “We will not tolerate any unscrupulous behavior that violates Michigan law when it comes to gouging and price fixing.”

    Read the release here. Find out more about the Attorney General’s role in gas prices.



RECENT NEWS

Press Releases
Schuette Calls on All States to Impose Sanctions on Iran
September 1, 2015        

    LANSINGIn response to President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt today issued a letter to the Governors of all 50 states urging them to impose state-based sanctions against Iran. 

     “Iran engages in some of the world’s most severe human rights abuses, oppressing women, and persecuting people of nearly all faiths, including Jews, Christians and Baha’is,” said Schuette. "In my past service as a Congressman from Michigan, I supported a strong national defensive capability and opposed relations with Iran, a county hostile to both the United States and our key strategic ally Israel. Now, in service as to Michigan as Attorney General, I will enforce Michigan law and opposed lifting any sanctions on Iran."

     In 2010, the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 stated “that the United States should support the decision of any State or local government that for moral, prudential, or reputational reasons divests from, or prohibits the investment of assets of the State or local government in…Iran.” To date, 25 states – from New York to Florida to Texas to California – have enacted such sanctions. 

     “As part of the Iran deal, the president has agreed to actively encourage states to drop their sanctions, and there’s no doubt the administration will label our effort as ‘interference.’ But there is strong bipartisan opposition to the Iran deal in Congress, and 25 states already have exercised their authority and issued sanctions to prohibit investment of state assets in Iran. To those states, we are encouraging them to strengthen and expand existing sanctions. For the other 25 states, we are urging governors and attorneys general, as those elected to enforce laws and ensure good stewardship of public funds, to aggressively move to enact strong sanctions against Iran as soon as possible,” said Pruitt. 

     Click here for a copy of the letter, which also includes draft language for legislative and executive action to be used to impose state-based sanctions.

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Schuette Files Civil Suit Against Florida Scam Artists Targeting Michigan Small Business Owners
August 27, 2015        

     

     LANSINGMichigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today filed a civil lawsuit to prevent a Florida based company, Division of Corporate Services Inc. and its officers Chad Davis, Joshua Strawn and Tate Howe, from further operation in the state of Michigan after allegations of deceitful business practices designed to dupe Michigan small businesses and non –profit organizations.

     The lawsuit alleges that the company sent misleading mailings designed to look like an official state form that corporate representatives are required to complete yearly to keep their businesses in good standing. Recipients were asked to complete and return the form with payment to a Lansing address.  It is alleged the responding businesses were actually buying fake meeting minutes for their business. The suit also seeks $150 refunds for all Michigan businesses that responded to the mailing.

     “Deception of hardworking Michigan business owners will not be tolerated,” said Schuette. “These business and non-profits believed they were simply complying with state regulations only to later find they had been taken advantage of.” 

     The action comes as the result of a complaint by a Charlevoix non-profit, The Walloon 17 Foundation, believing the mailing was an official state form responded to the Division of Corporate Services Inc. request. After returning the form as well as the requested payment, the foundation realized the scam and canceled the sent check. However, they still received a packet that included what claimed to be minutes from their annual shareholders meeting. The foundation does not have shareholders or an annual meeting. Walloon 17 then brought their findings to the Attorney General’s Corporate Oversight Division. 

     Additional companies across the state filed complaints regarding these business practices including the Michigan Education Scholarship Foundation in Petoskey, Paws of Hope in Stevensville, the Landlord Association of Houghton County, Healthsource Surgical Supply, Inc. in Troy, and Adopting a Waiting Child in Holland. 

     “I thank these businesses for taking time to bring this deceptive mailing to our attention,” Schuette added.

The AG’s investigation also revealed that Davis and Strawn of Largo, Florida and Howe of Scotts Valley, California, are alleged to have done similar mailings in other states last year using the name Annual Business Services, LLC. 

     “Our goal is to make sure Michigan businesses are protected from these types of bad actors. It is alleged that these individuals have used this scheme before but this suit will ensure Michigan business owners will not be a victim of this scam again,” said Schuette.

     A civil lawsuit is merely an allegation, and defendants are not liable until the Court enters a judgment in the case. 

     If you believe your business was a victim of Division of Corporate Services, Inc  Michigan residents may visit the Attorney General’s Web site at http://www.michigan.gov/ag, or mail a letter explaining the problem to: Michigan Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division, P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI  48909. Consumers may also call the Attorney General's toll-free hotline at 1-877-765-8388.

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Sample form sent by Division Corporate Services Inc. and sample meeting minutes received.

 

 

Schuette Statement on Indiana BP Refinery Returning to Full Capacity
August 25, 2015        

     

     LANSING- Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today made the following statement in response to the safe restart of the British Petroleum (BP) refinery in Whiting, Indiana as it returns to full production capacity:

     “I am pleased to see the BP Whiting crude refinery is up and running. With this news, I expect to see a reduction in gas prices across Michigan very soon."

 Background

     Two weeks ago, Schuette's office issued a warning to gas stations against any attempt to take advantage of consumers by price gouging or price fixing after a significant increase in gas prices across Michigan. 

 

     In addition to this warning, Schuette also issued a letter directly to BP, the owner of the Whiting, Ind. facility experiencing an outage, as well as other major petroleum companies outlining a need for transparency in the case of an outage or other unexpected event. Since the letter was issued, the Department of Attorney General and BP have been communicating about the status of the refinery. 

 

     Schuette remains committed to fighting higher gasoline prices in court when the price increases violate the law.  

 

     If consumers become aware of direct evidence concerning a conspiracy between companies, or have verifiable evidence of a retailer charging a price “grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold,” they are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-765-8388 or file an online complaint at www.michigan.gov/ag.

 

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Schuette: Department of Attorney General Won't Tolerate Gouging, Price Fixing at the Pump
August 14, 2015        

      LANSING –  As Michigan drivers deal with a spike in gas prices, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today issued a warning to gas stations against any attempt to take advantage of consumers by price gouging or price fixing.

     In addition to this warning, the Attorney General has also issued a letter to BP, the owner of the Whiting, Ind. facility experiencing an outage, as well as other major petroleum companies outlining a need for transparency in the case of an outage or other unexpected event.

     “As Labor Day weekend approaches, the effects of an outage at a major Indiana petroleum refinery, combined with additional factors, means Michigan families are seeing an increase in the price at the pump. These circumstances do not constitute a free pass for gas stations to gouge consumers,” said Schuette.  “We will not tolerate any unscrupulous behavior that violates Michigan law when it comes to gouging and price fixing.”

     Every day, year round, Schuette’s Consumer Protection team monitors the balance of wholesale and retail petroleum prices and profit margins in regions around Michigan.  Additionally, the Department receives and reviews consumer complaints and inquiries about individual stations.  The Department investigates any time there is evidence that state law has been violated for gouging or price fixing. 

     Under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act, a retailer may not charge a price that is “grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold.”  Anti-trust laws also prohibit gas stations from entering into agreements to arbitrarily fix prices in unison.

     For example, as Attorney General, Schuette secured convictions for gasoline price-fixing by five Michigan station owners in 2012.  The Department has also entered into “compliance-agreements” with stations requiring them to submit to monitoring after they spiked prices well above the state-wide norm on a particular day or after a weather event.  

    Schuette remains committed to fighting higher gasoline prices in court when the price increases violate the law.  If consumers become aware of direct evidence concerning a conspiracy between companies, or have verifiable evidence of a retailer charging a price “grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold,” they are encouraged to contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-765-8388 or file an online complaint at www.michigan.gov/ag.

     For more information on gas prices in Michigan see Attorney General Schuette's Consumer Alert: Increased Gas Prices? Again?

Copy of Schuette letter to petroleum companies

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Schuette Statement on New Obama Energy Regulations
August 3, 2015        

      LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today issued the following statement in response to the ‘Clean Power Plan’ proposed by President Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on August 3, 2015:  


     “I am deeply concerned by yet another executive action taken by President Obama and the EPA that violates the Clean Air Act and causes the price of electricity to increase, placing jobs at risk and costing Michigan families more.”

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