Photo by George Lauby
Gas station owner Mark Wilkinson said a bill to prevent deceptive advertising is not really about "false advertising" -- it is about his competitors capturing fuel margins and market share.In short, it is about money, he said.
Wilkinson said he spent Wednesday in Lincoln, talking to people who are pushing for LB 477, which is aimed to stop the advertisement of bargain price fuel with the intent to encourage consumers to buy a more expensive motor fuel because the lower priced fuel is only available at a pump or two.
A hearing on the bill was held Tuesday, the day before. The bill’s sponsor is Sen. John McCollister of Omaha, who fell victim to the pricing scheme last summer in North Platte.
Wilkinson, who owns the Fat Dogs station near the main I-80 interchange, said he didn’t even know the bill was proposed. He said compeititors from Sapp Brothers and Kwik Stop testified in support of the bill.
“(Kwik Stop owner) Mr. O'Neill is to no more interested in protecting Nebraskan's and the world from false advertising than the man on the moon,” Wilkinson said. “He is about protecting his pocket book. His arguments do not pass the smell test.”
Wilkinson said he is proud to offer the lowest price gasoline in North Platte.
“We have regular E-10 fuel available 24-7-365,” he said. “It is always on sale and available. We have built a very substantial local customer base that enjoys buying from us because we have quality gasoline at some of the best prices around.”
“Unlike Mr. O'Neill's station, we do not offer gimmick marketing... a special price on specific days of the week, or (a special price) if you carry a loyalty card," Wilkinson said.
Wilkinson predicted that if LB 477 is enacted, the price of gas in North Platte will go up. He said his ability to sell 40 cents higher-priced gas to I-80 travelers enables him to offer the lowest price in town to people who buy from pumps 1 and 2.
Two stations -- Fat Dogs and Cenex -- at North Platte's main I-80 interchange use the practice. Both stations were sanctioned in 2007 by the Nebraska Attorney General under the state's Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act. They were required to list the pumps with the low-price gas somewhere on their signs.
LB 477 was also supported by the AAA Motor Club, the Better Business Bureau, and the Nebraska Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association (NPCA).
Supporters see the bill as an opportunity to stop a few bad actors who are hurting the reputation of Nebraska gas station operators.
A representative of Sapp Brothers said later the company does not have a gas pump in North Platte that competes with Wilkinson, and the only testimony related to the company at the hearing was through the Petroleum Marketers Association.