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Why do some gas stations change their prices numerous times a day?

Wayne Faulkner
StarNews

There are no regulations in North Carolina concerning the number of times a gasoline station may change its prices.

The practice “is not uncommon for folks to have a different price in the morning, afternoon and evening,” says Brandon Wright, manager of communications for the Petroleum Marketers Association of America, a trade group based in Arlington, Va., that represents 8,000 independent petroleum marketing companies, both wholesale and retail.

Changes are dictated first of all by the wholesale price of gasoline at terminals across the area, he said.

The owner of a tanker truck will search for the best price among terminals – every terminal may have a different price – and factor in the cost of transporting that 8,000-gallon load to gas stations, Wright said.

Tank truck owners and gas station owners can subscribe to different services that will let them know the wholesale price at the terminals, Wright said.

For the station owner, the price posted usually reflects the last tanker load he purchased, Wright said.

“If you have a load coming in the afternoon you might change your price to reflect the new cost,” he said.

The station’s price usually reflects what other retailers are doing in the area. “If they think they can get a few cents extra, they can do it,” Wright said. That means you may see a higher price in the morning or at rush hour.

The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs did not return phone inquiries on gas regulation.

North Carolina has an anti-gouging statute that is applied in price emergencies, such as in the aftermath of a tropical storm.

When gasoline was in short supply in western North Carolina last summer, some stations were charging $2 or more per gallon above the going rate. The state stepped in then.

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