ST. LOUIS (CN) – In a federal antitrust complaint, independent gas station owners say the national chain QuikTrip sells gasoline at a loss to try to drive the independents out of business.
The Association of Independent Gas Station Owners and three of its members say QuikTrip violates the Sherman Act, the Robinson-Patman Act, and the Motor Fuel Marketing Act.
“On or about July 1, 2011 and continuing to this day, defendant QuikTrip began and has engaged in a price war with plaintiffs and other gas station owners in the St. Louis metropolitan area, with QuikTrip posting reduced pricing changes for its gasoline on almost a daily basis, and at times changing its posted gasoline prices several times in the course of a day,” the complaint states.
“The pricing of gasoline by Quick Trip during this period has been predatory because, based on information and belief, QuikTrip has been pricing its gasoline for customers at a price lower than QuikTrip’s costs.
“As a result of QuikTrip’s said predatory pricing, plaintiffs have been forced to lower their retail prices for gasoline in order to maintain customers and remain in business.”
The independents claim QuikTrip has a history of this: that in 2004 QuikTrip admitted to the Missouri attorney general that it had been selling gas at below cost.
“The predatory price war engaged in by QuikTrip has caused injury to competition in the retail sale of gasoline in the St. Louis marketplace, which will ultimately cause harm to consumers in the form of higher gasoline prices dictated by QuikTrip,” the complaint states.
Tulsa-based QuikTrip is known in St. Louis for its jalapeño cheddar hot dogs, cheeseburgers, bratwurst, taquitos and other foods.
QuikTrip’s website claims it has more than 580 stores in 10 states, employs more than 10,000 people and has made Fortune Magazine’s 100 Best Jobs list every year since 2003.
QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said Thursday that the company was unaware of the complaint.
The plaintiffs want QuikTrip enjoined from selling gas below cost, and treble damages of more than $50 million.
They are represented by Eric Vickers.