Whitbourne Ultramar offering refunds for overcharging
PUB describes incident as ‘apparent honest mistake’
Motorists who purchased regular unleaded gasoline at Moorlands Ultramar in Whitbourne between Jan. 3-5 paid two cents above the maximum price established by the Public Utilities Board, and are being encouraged to seek a refund.
Another fuel supplier contacted the board to point out the error in pricing, prompting an inquiry, said Robert Byrne, the director of regulatory and advisory services with the board.
It was determined the station, located along the Trans-Canada Highway, was charging $1.38.5 per litre, while the maximum price established by the board was $1.36.5.
The board directed that a public notice be posted at the main entrance to the business, advising of the price overcharge, and that refunds were available.
The notice will stay in place for three weeks, said Byrne.
“It was not gouging,” said Byrne. “It appears that the printed schedule faxed to the business was misread.
“It was an apparent honest mistake.”
He said the prices being charged for other types of fuels at the station were in accordance with the board’s schedule of pricing.
Byrne would not release details about the amount of gasoline sold at the higher price, but noted that situation was mitigated by the fact that a provincewide power outage impacted operations at the business for most of Saturday.
“So really, it was most of Friday and half of Sunday,” he explained.
Byrne said such a circumstance is quite rare. Since the PUB became responsible for ensuring fairness in the marketing of petroleum products throughout the province in 2004, he recalls only two or three similar incidents.
He also emphasized, “this is the only inquiry we’ve had for the entirety of the province relating to price overcharge” during recent days, and “reports to the contrary have not been brought to our attention.”
He added: “If anyone feels they have been overcharged, their first avenue is to go to retailer to confirm that price was in excess, and they should ask for a refund. If the situation is more widespread, we will deal with it on a case-by-case basis.”
The owner of Moorlands, Roz Harwood, said there was no intention to gouge customers, and explained that the schedule of prices faxed to the business caused the con- fusion.
She said the “6” in the price for regular gasoline looked like an “8.”
“We are not trying to rip anybody off. We’ve been up there for years. People know us,” said Harwood.
She described some of the reaction on social media as “very hurtful.”
Up to late last week, she said only one customer had returned, looking for a refund.
In all, she estimates the business sold just over 17,000 litres at the higher price, mostly on Friday, Jan. 3 as people prepared for the oncoming winter storm.
“It was a mistake,” she added. “We did not mean to hurt anybody.”