Almost Like Price Fixing

The oil company executives who were paraded before a Congressional hearing last week uniformly offered the same message.

Don’t blame us for high gas prices. Blame the law of supply and demand; “market forces” at work.

Except that, when it comes to the retail end of things, they have a big hand in those “market forces”.

Every time Sohaila Rezazadeh rings up a sale at her Exxon station on Chain Bridge Road in Oakton, her cash register sends the information to Exxon Mobil’s central computers. If she raises the price of gasoline a couple of pennies, chances are that Exxon will raise the wholesale price she pays by the same amount.

Credit-card fees are eating her profit margins. Exxon, which owns the station land, last week handed Rezazadeh a new lease raising her rent about 30 percent over the next three years.

The high prices are not as disturbing as what seems to be the price fixing illustrated in this story.