State official calls for investigation into high gas prices

A gas pump in Massachusetts. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A gas pump in Massachusetts. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Massachusetts secretary of state has called for an investigation into the sudden surge of gasoline and heating oil prices across the state that have occurred since Russia's invasion of Ukraine to make sure retailers and wholesalers are not gouging the public.

“They have a right to a profit, they don’t have a right to an exorbitant profit,” Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin told WBZ-TV on Tuesday.

Galvin said he has no proof of price gouging but is concerned about the soaring costs. Prices vary widely across the state and gasoline being sold at the pumps was paid for before the Russia-Ukraine war, he said.

“Not an ounce of fuel that’s being sold here either for heating or gasoline right now was taken out of ground after the invasion of Ukraine," he said. "The pricing practices have to be reviewed."

He has asked state Attorney General Maura Healey's office to investigate whether state consumer protection laws are being violated.

Healey's office in a statement said it has received several complaints about possible price gouging and is monitoring the situation. Her office encouraged anyone with evidence of gouging or of companies colluding to raise prices to contact them.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in Massachusetts has risen to a record high of $4.16 as of Tuesday, according to AAA Northeast, soaring 54 cents in a week.

Home heating oil is selling for an average of $5.02 per gallon as of Monday, according to the state Department of Energy Resources, with a high of $6 per gallon. The average was up more than $1 per gallon from the previous week.

Gas station owners are also stressed by the high prices, according to the executive director of the New England Convenience Store and Energy Marketers Council, an industry trade group.

“This is a very painful time for retailers, prices going up makes margins next to nothing,” Jon Shaer told WHDH-TV. “I would say categorically there is no price gouging going on in the Commonwealth.”



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