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That's an Illegal Charge

by BBB Staff | Mar 14, 2019 12:57:42 PM

We’ve all
been there. The needle of your gas gauge is hovering above empty, so, you pull
over at the nearest gas station to fill up. This is where consumer attorney
David Sugerman found himself one morning at an ARCO in Southern Oregon. Only,
for him, this gas stop would be anything but routine. A message on the fuel
pump directed him to pay inside. Sugerman entered the store, paid for his gas,
and took his receipt. That’s when he noticed it - an illegal charge.

“I looked at
the woman behind the counter and I said, ‘ma’am, I don’t want to be rude, but
this is an illegal charge’. She said, ‘yeah, I know we get complaints all the
time. We tell corporate and they won’t do anything about it.’  And, I sort of smiled and said, okay, well, I
kind of know how to do this,” Sugerman laughs. 

So began
what would become the largest consumer class action verdict ever in Oregon.

Sugerman and
his team tracked down more than two-million consumers whose gas purchases were
topped off with an additional $.35 debit card fee. A jury found that 35-cents
was an illegal charge and further ruled that BP was illegally overcharging
Oregon customers at ARCO and am/pm minimarkets at a pace of 13,000 times a day
over a 32-month period. The total recovery is expected to exceed $400-million,
a record for the state.

“I’m able in
certain situations as a lawyer to use the criminal justice system and the class
action device to enforce consumer rights, but we hope it doesn’t come to this,”
Sugerman admits.

The verdict
allows for each of the affected consumers to receive $200. An additional sum of
unclaimed money – an estimated $60-million – will help support Oregon Legal Aid
and consumer protection research and education at the University of Oregon Law
Center.

Sugerman
smiles and says, “We’re very excited about that. That’s my favorite part.”

BBB NW+P
Oregon spoke with David Sugerman as part of a larger campaign to educate
consumers during National Consumer Awareness Week. See the entire Facebook Live
interview here.  

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