I am writing to express my displeasure with the unreasonable disparity in gasoline prices in various Alberta communities. Major discrepancies in pricing is nothing more than gouging customers such as what we are experiencing in Medicine Hat.

On a trip this past week I paid 94.9 cents a litre in Edmonton and 95.9 cents a litre in Calgary. Apparently the service stations and oil companies feel that it is reasonable that the citizens of Medicine Hat will willingly pay approximately 25% more for their gasoline.

I recently read a Medicine Hat News article where an “anonymous” gas station owner is quoted as saying that gas stations are compensating for losses experienced last fall during a prolonged gas war. This is just another in a long line of feeble excuses given by those in the gasoline business to explain away their price gouging.

The other argument that consumers often hear is that the amount of competition will be a major factor in the price of gasoline. It is interesting to note that in communities in the United States a customer can find multiple gas stations on the same road with different gas prices and yet in communities such as Medicine Hat most stations are the same price and usually go up and down in price in unison. I can think of no other commodity, other than gasoline, where the price is so completely uniform across the entire city. But this must surely be by chance. Collusion and price fixing could not be the reason.

A question I asked one source of information was, why is Medicine Hat paying substantially more than other centres?” The answer I received was that those who control gasoline prices have arbitrarily determined that Medicine Hat can better afford and will be more tolerant of higher pricing.

An obvious question is: What can the consumers of Medicine Hat do to change the situation? What one should remember is that collectively, consumers carry tremendous power with their buying decisions. Consumer’s decisions can have serious business consequences. The only answer I can see is for consumers to “en masse,” send a loud and clear message to those who control gasoline pricing. This can be done by each consumer making a personal decision to no longer purchase gasoline at any of the service stations representing major dealers (Esso, Shell, Mohawk, Petro Canada). All purchases would be from other places as Costco, Co-op, and Superstore. I realize that some dealers will suffer. However, local dealers were surely aware of the powerful control exerted over them by the major dealers when they made the decision to get into the retail gasoline business.

I believe that in the short term, a collective, loud and clear message can be delivered. We the consumers of Medicine Hat must be treated fairly. Anything less will only confirm to gasoline suppliers that we will continue to willingly pay unfair high prices.

Jim Leitch

Medicine Hat

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