Premium Gas Class Action Runs Out of Fuel

     (CN) – California consumers cannot sue gasoline retailers over pump nozzles that allegedly dispense a small amount of lower-grade gas during high-grade fuel purchases, the 9th Circuit ruled Thursday.
     Six consumers of high-grade gasoline sued Chevron, Exxon-Mobile, Conocophillips, BP, Shell and other companies in Los Angeles, claiming that the retailers’ single-nozzle gasoline dispensers overcharged them. They allege that when they purchase high-grade fuel from a single-nozzle dispenser, a residual amount of lower-grade fuel – between two-tenths and three-tenths of a gallon – is left over from the previous transaction, thus forcing the high-grade purchaser to pay for a small amount of mid-range or regular-grade gas.
     The amended class action included six claims under California law, including breach of contract, bad faith and breach of warranty. But U.S. District Judge George King dismissed each claim, and refused to allow the plaintiffs to amend their suit for a third time.
     King found that “California’s regulatory scheme precluded any liability for the residual fuel problem because it mandates the dispenser and pricing features to which plaintiff objected,” according to the ruling. He also ruled that the plaintiffs had failed to give proper notice on some claims, and that others were pre-empted by federal law.
     The federal appeals panel in Pasadena unanimously affirmed on all points.
     “We agree with the District Court that plaintiffs’ well-pleaded factual allegations, accepted as true, do not give rise to a reasonable inference that defendants have committed any misconduct for which we may grant relief,” Judge Johnnie Rawlinson wrote for the three-judge panel.
     “Defendants’ conduct is clearly permitted by California law, and defendants therefore are entitled to safe harbor from liability under these broad consumer protection statutes,” he added.

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