Mississippi AG Going After Gas Price Gougers

While gas prices have seen record highs this week, it could effect travelers this Memorial Day Weekend. But Attorney General Jim Hood will be keeping an eye on local companies, making sure they don't price gouge consumers like after Hurricane Katrina.

Gas prices soared after Hurricane Katrina, and so did the number of complaints of price gouging at the pumps.

"We just went after the ones we saw had profits of 25 percent, 25 percent and over," Attorney General Jim Hood said.

Five companies have settled with the state, paying nearly $249,000 They are Sumrall Oil, Prince Oil, Spaceway, Southern Oil and Moak Petroleum.

"What happened is they got hit with a penalty 10 times the illegal profits that they made," Hood said.

Two other companies did not cooperate. The state plans to file suit against Fair Oil out of Louisville and Wilburn Oil out of Lee County.

"To profiteer off of people who were fleeing from a storm is just awful. And these two companies, we plan to make an example out of," Hood said.

And with current gas prices hammering drivers, economists at Mississippi State created a brochure available online to help the public understand exactly why we are paying so much.

"What we tried to do is condense this information into a pamphlet that you can go to and find out some of the background on why its so complicated," MSU Economist Dr. Ben Blair said.

Those economists are working with AG's office on a market study of gas prices around the state, to keep an eye on unusual spikes and see if anything illegal is going on.

Hood says the state is doing what it can to monitor gas prices, but only the U.S. Justice Department can drive down oil profits by looking into anti-trust violations.

by Wendy Suares