by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
In looking through the Attorney General’s spreadsheet of “price gouging” cases, I decided to look specifically at reported gasoline prices. How many instances of “gouging” were reported, how credible are they, and how much did some reporting consumers decide was too much?
I decided to focus only on regular gasoline. That’s the one most people care about the most, anyway. Also, it was by far the one with the most reports. There were only six reports involving midgrade gasoline, and 19 specifically concerning premium. But for regular gasoline there were 289 reports out of the 712 total “gouging” allegations made.
That doesn’t mean there were 289 separate incidents of gouging. Many of the reports were problematic in several ways. I had to discard 55. Most of those lacked an attempt at a “before” price, a handful didn’t include the “gouging” price, a few didn’t include prices at all or had other problems, and one didn’t name any particular station. Several didn’t show any increase in prices at all, which made me wonder if they were using the “gouging” report to complain about a shortage (which would be ironic).
Of the remainder, 104 reports were duplicate reports of the same stations. (The spreadsheet is chockablock with duplicate reporting, which is another reason why reports that there were “more than 700” instances of price gouging after Hurricane Florence are spurious.) In sorting through the duplicates, I compared the lowest reported “before” price with the highest reported “gouging” price at each reported station.
After sorting through all those data, I made the following findings: