California’s 95 percent compliance rate for pump accuracy is consistently among the nation’s leading states, and its 97 percent compliance rate for octane accuracy exceeds the rates in the limited number of other states that check for octane.

A violation of these state laws is generally considered a criminal misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or six months in county jail.  Lesser, technical violations may be handled at the county level with an administrative civil penalty ranging from $50 to $1,000.  More extensive violations (such as a pattern of manipulation to “short deliver” fuel, for example) may be referred to the District Attorney’s Office and addressed under laws regarding unfair business practice or unfair competition, with penalties of $2,500 per count.

Higher prices at the pump tend to lead motorists to wonder whether gas stations are manipulating their dispensers in order to boost their profits on fuel sales. With the rapid rise in fuel prices since January, the complaint rate has doubled. As California’s high compliance rates indicate, no fraud or manipulation is evident in the vast majority of our inspections and investigations.  Still, consumers understandably feel frustrated when prices rise.

Complaints should be directed to the county weights and measures office, usually within the Agricultural Commissioner’s office; or the CDFA Division of Measurement Standards — call the office in your region:  Sacramento 916-229-3000; Fresno 559-445-5403; Anaheim 714-680-7896.

Most retailers depend on return business, so they make every effort to treat consumers fairly and honestly. When low-quality fuel or fraudulent behavior is found, state and county officials are quick to step in and protect consumers.