A judge is considering his verdict in a lawsuit that says six convenience stores along Interstate 80 in Nebraska posted misleading signs about prices. A nonjury trial was held last in week in Lincoln in a February 2017 lawsuit filed by several individuals and the Coalition for Ethical Petroleum Marketing. It accuses North Platte-based Wilkinson Development of violating the Nebraska Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Nebraska Consumer Protection Act. The plaintiffs want the judge to order Wilkinson to stop the alleged practice.
The lawsuit says Wilkinson posts low prices on station signs to attract travelers to its Fat Dog stores but sells gas at those prices only at a limited number of pumps, hoping travelers accidentally fill up with more expensive fuel. Company President Mark Wilkinson denied the accusation during his testimony, saying he just tries to offer a lot of different products and let consumers decide what they want, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. Calls to a North Platte phone listed for Wilkinson Development rang busy Thursday. Wilkinson’s attorney didn’t immediately return a call.
Dan O’Neill, president and CEO of 24 Kwik Stop stores in North Platte and elsewhere in Nebraska and Colorado, said at the trial that he thinks Wilkinson’s practice gives North Platte and the convenience store fuel industry a black eye. He’s a member of the Coalition for Ethical Petroleum Marketing, a lobbying group representing gas station and convenience store owners.
The cheaper fuel isn’t available at every pump, said one of Wilkinson’s attorneys, Daniel Klaus, while adding: “There is nothing to suggest Wilkinson advertises a product that isn’t available.”
O’Neill agreed, but he said the deception occurs when a consumer pulls into the store lot and assumes the price was available at all the pumps. He told The Associated Press on Thursday that all six Fat Dogs haven’t changed the practice. The judge is awaiting written closing arguments before rendering a verdict.