(CN) - Florida must answer ExxonMobil's question of whether a price-gouging law applies to the oil company, a Florida appeals court ruled.
ExxonMobil Oil Corp. petitioned the Florida Department of Agriculture for a declaration of the state Price Gouging Law and whether it applies to the company's commercial wholesale gasoline transactions.
The law is designed to prevent price spikes during "certain periods of disaster."
The agency dismissed the petition, so ExxonMobil asked the Tallahassee-based First District Florida Court of Appeals to make the state answer the question.
Exxon sought clarification of how the law applied, since it uses the term "national or international market trend," while Exxon and 15 other gasoline wholesalers use the Gulf Coast Regional Platts Index to help determine gas prices.
Judge James Wolf ruled that this question was worth answering.
"Declaratory statements are appropriate where a petition is filed by an individual corporation alleging a particular set of circumstances involving a unique industry having very limited participants engaged in almost identical operations," Wolf wrote.
The court also rejected the agency's argument that it could not respond because it had served investigative subpoenas before Exxon filed its petition.
"The Department's position would allow agencies to avoid responding to requests for declaratory statements for lengthy time periods even where litigation was not imminent," Wolf wrote.
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