A group of California gasoline station owners have filed suit in a US federal district court in San Francisco accusing Big Oil of fixing gasoline prices across the United States from 1998 to 2001.
The suit claims that Texaco, state-owned Saudi Aramco and Royal Dutch Shell colluded to set gasoline sold to 23,000 Texaco and Shell stations at artificially high prices. Chevron is named as a defendant because it took over Texaco.
The suit is similar to one filed in 2004 by California gasoline station owners. That case was dismissed last year by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Joseph M. Alioto of San Francisco said the top U.S. court rejected the former case because it sought to prove only that the three corporations agreed to fix prices. This time, Alioto said, he and his fellow attorneys will attempt to prove unfair competition laws were broken.
“All of this started at the Masters Golf Tournament,” Alioto told Reuters on Wednesday. “The guy from Shell got a brainstorm while he was watching the pros hit those pebbled balls around and called the CEO of Texaco.” Heads of Shell Oil, Texaco and Saudi Refining began meeting monthly in 1996, the lawsuit says.
The suit asks for class-action status. Some stations lost $10,000 or more a month because of what is alleged were practices that raised prices by cutting competition.