DANVILLE — The mayor of Danville is about 40 days into tracking local gas prices, comparing them to prices in other Illinois cities, including Champaign-Urbana, to determine if there's any evidence of price fixing.
Eisenhauer said there seem to be extended periods when gas prices in Danville are not just higher, but as much as 20 cents a gallon higher, than prices in other cities. He said price fixing is very difficult to prove, but he knows citizens have concerns, so he intends to gather data for at least a 90-day period and turn it over to the Illinois attorney general's office. He said the attorney general's staff told him he would need at least 90 days of data to even begin to prove price fixing.
Scott Mulford, communications director with the attorney general's office, said there have been very few reported cases nationwide where states have been able to prosecute a successful price fixing case. It takes "an incredible amount of specific evidence of an agreement among competitors," he said.
Mulford added that gasoline retailers post their price right out front, so it's difficult to prove anything from one part of town to the next, or one city to the next.
"There are just too many other variables — the price that the retailer must pay, other costs associated with doing business. Maybe they are part of a larger franchise or chain, transportation costs. It goes on and on," he said.
Mulford said if people have concerns about pricing, they should let the attorney general's office know. He said there are only a couple specific cases where the office can investigate gas prices. One is collusion, he said, where there are specific examples of someone allegedly violating anti-trust laws. And the other is price gouging, he said, which is inflated prices during a time of natural disaster. Mulford said there have been instances of price gouging that were pursued by the office after 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
In the last two years, Eisenhauer said, he's tracked prices at various times, but the high prices never seemed to last an extended period, and at times, prices would be lower than in other cities.
But in the last two months, he said, it seems that local prices have been significantly higher and have remained that way for an extended period, so he started tracking them about 40 days ago and will continue until he has 90 days of data collected. He said he's not driving around the city, but gathering data from online price-tracking sites.
According to the website IllinoisGasPrices.com, gas prices in Danville on Thursday for regular ranged from $3.73 a gallon to $3.89 a gallon and in Champaign, Urbana and Philo, prices ranged from $3.59 a gallon to $3.89 a gallon. And according to the state's gas price monitoring site, as of Thursday, the statewide average for a gallon of regular was $3.785.
Eisenhauer said he knows citizens are concerned, because he gets e-mails, phone calls and in-person comments from people who claim that gas prices are often higher in Danville. Eisenhauer said he's decided to be proactive and track the prices, gather the data and see what happens.
Gas price monitoring site
The state of Illinois has a gas price monitoring site online. Go to http://www3.illinois.gov/gasprices/