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Friday, October 7, 2011 - 11:34am

Gas Prices Sparked War, Now Lawsuit

The owner of a Southeast Georgia gas station chain is suing Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.

The legal tiff is over discount gas prices.

When you drive up to one of 25 Parker's Markets, you see two prices.

One is the regular price for gas.

Another, lower price is the one that Greg Parker gives to customers who use the chain's debit card.

Parker says, Black's office considers that deceptive, since not everyone has the card, and Black interprets state law as allowing only businesses to post price differences for people paying with cash versus credit cards, not debit cards.

Parker says, Black's order to stop posting the lower price exceeds his authority and benefits only competitors.

"He is caving to the desires of those competitors," Parker says. "The people who are complaining are not the consumers. The people who are complaining are the competitors."

Parker started the debit card program in February to bypass Visa and Mastercard charges, the bain of retailers.

Parker's signs post the lower price "Club Discount" right above the price for regular unleaded.

The move set off a gas price war here.

"This is a Constitutional rights issue," Parker says. "We have a right to communicate to the consumer the way for them to save money."

Black's office declined to comment, citing the litigation.