FTC takes first step toward investigation of gas prices in Kentu - WDRB 41 Louisville News

FTC takes first step toward investigation of gas prices in Kentucky

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Federal Trade Commission has taken the first step toward a possible investigation into high gas prices in Kentucky.

It all began six years ago, when Attorney General Jack Conway first launched an investigation into reports of gas gouging in Kentucky following Hurricane Ike. 

It's a common complaint at the pump.

"To me, it's like a big pimp game. They're scamming us you know," said one man as he left a station in downtown Louisville.
"All we can do is deal with it I guess. Can't do anything about it. Can't change it," said another customer as he filled his tank.

Conway's investigation into gouging did lead to a handful of gas stations paying fines.

But the probe also found that the main reason for higher gas prices in Kentucky, is that one company, Marathon, has a monopoly on supply.

"It doesn't matter if you're at Chevron. It doesn't matter if you're at Thorntons or Shell or Speedway. It is all Marathon Oil," said Allison Martin, spokesman for the Attorney General's office.

It's the result of the Marathon-Ashland merger in 1998. It is a legal monopoly, and there's nothing Kentucky can do about it.

"And really what we're seeing is lack of competition, and that is outside the purview of the Office of the Attorney General. The agency that regulates that is the Federal Trade Commission," said Martin.

Conway turned his results over to the FTC which, at first, took a pass.  But now with a new leadership in place, the agency has changed course.

The FTC agreed agreed to take another look at our investigation and review what we have found. We have not heard back from them at this point," said Martin.

If the FTC chooses to act, it could take steps to break up Marathon's dominance in Kentucky.

"There could possibly be some divestiture of some of the assets of Marathon that would increase competition in Kentucky, whether that be at the retail level or also at the supply level, allowing more supply to come into Kentucky," said Martin.

And that would be just fine with those on the receiving end.

"It would be nice to see what's going on, see if we all get treated equal," said one gas customer.

Martin believes the FTC will decide fairly soon whether to launch its own investigation.

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