Antitrust Lawyer Blog Commentary on Current Developments

FTC Releases Report on its “Investigation of Gasoline Price Manipulation and Post-Katrina Gasoline Price Increases”

On May 22, the Federal Trade Commission today issued a report entitled “Investigation of Gasoline Price Manipulation and Post-Katrina Gasoline Price Increases.” The report details the results of an intensive, Congressionally-mandated Commission investigation into whether gasoline prices nationwide were “artificially manipulated by reducing refinery capacity or by any other form of market manipulation or price gouging practices” and into gasoline pricing by refiners, large wholesalers, and retailers in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
In its investigation, the FTC found no instances of illegal market manipulation that led to higher prices during the relevant time periods but found 15 examples of pricing at the refining, wholesale, or retail level that fit the relevant legislation's definition of evidence of “price gouging.” Other factors such as regional or local market trends, however, appeared to explain these firms' prices in nearly all cases. Further, the report reiterated the FTC's position that federal gasoline price gouging legislation, in addition to being difficult to enforce, could cause more problems for consumers than it solves, and that competitive market forces should be allowed to determine the price of gasoline drivers pay at the pump.