Statement of FTC Chairman William E. Kovacic on Protecting Consumers Following Hurricanes Ike and Gustav

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The Federal Trade Commission will be working with the Department of Energy (DOE) and state regulatory agencies to ensure consumers are being treated fairly in the wake of hurricanes Ike and Gustav.

The FTC has been working, and continues to, work diligently to support these important goals. To accomplish this, the Commission currently maintains a project to monitor gasoline prices nationwide. The project collects and examines data on 360 retail markets and 20 wholesale markets, using a system to identify gasoline pricing patterns that cannot readily be explained by market forces. In response to Hurricane Ike, the FTC is intensifying its scrutiny of pricing phenomena in the areas most directly impacted by the storm, including Galveston and Houston. Additional agency resources have been assigned to the monitoring project as part of this effort.

In addition, the Commission is working in close cooperation with the DOE and the states to implement its price-monitoring project and examine apparent pricing anomalies. In response to Hurricane Ike, the FTC is consulting daily with DOE to review the complaints that agency receives on its gas price complaint hotline. Working together, the agencies are devising additional steps that can be taken jointly to get information from consumers about possible pricing misconduct. Daily contacts between the FTC and DOE began last Friday and will continue in the weeks ahead as recovery efforts take place. In addition, the Commission will intensify its collaboration with the attorneys general of Texas and other affected states, including frequent discussions and information-sharing efforts.

The FTC also currently distributes, on its website and in printed materials, extensive information for consumers about how to be smart gasoline buyers and how to avoid scams that seek to exploit victims of natural disasters like hurricanes Ike and Gustav. In response to the hurricanes, the Commission on Friday posted a new consumer alert on its website to draw attention to these consumer education materials. In the days and weeks ahead, the FTC will post additional alerts and will work with news outlets to get these important messages out to affected consumers. The Commission’s Southwest Regional Office, located in Dallas, also will assist in local education and outreach efforts.

Copies of the Chairman’s statement and consumer education information related to saving money on gasoline and other issues can be found at http://www.ftc.gov.The FTC’s Bureau of Competition works with the Bureau of Economics to investigate alleged anticompetitive business practices and, when appropriate, recommends that the Commission take law enforcement action. To inform the Bureau about particular business practices, call 202-326-3300, send an e-mail to antitrust@ftc.gov, or write to the Office of Policy and Coordination, Room 394, Bureau of Competition, Federal Trade Commission, 600 Pennsylvania Ave, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. To learn more about the Bureau of Competition, read “Competition Counts” at http://www.ftc.gov/competitioncounts.

(Ike Statement.final.wpd)

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