State Reacts to Allegations of Octane Fraud

With the continuing hike of gas prices, accusations of gas fraud are also on the rise.

It's a complicated issue, but it has raised some important questions.

Depending on who you talk to, octane fraud is either widespread of almost non-existent.

According to published reports in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, some gas stations owners are accused of ordering too much regular gasoline and pressuring petroleum carriers to put the extra in their premium tanks. Those carriers are pointing their fingers at the state, saying the Department of Commerce isn't doing enough to find it when it happens.

But both the state and gas stations defend their practices.

"This is an issue we take very seriously," says the department's Executive Assistant to the Secretary, Aaron Olver, "Looking for fraud and looking for safety issues are our top priorities with the petroleum inspection program. We've conducted 1409 tests last year and this year to date and so far we haven't found a single case of octane fraud."

The department tries to inspect the gas at every station at least once a year.

In the past, officials have been accused of using faulty equipment. Last year, they upgraded to the IROX 2000 and maintain their testing program works just fine.

"The IROX machine is about a $25,000 piece of equipment and it represents the industry standard so it's the best thing we have to test with," says Olver.

We spoke with one local petroleum carrier who says gas fraud is a problem, but he wanted to remain anonymous, like many other accusers.

"We haven't found a single example," says Olver, "We follow up on all specific complaints but there's not much we can do about anonymous allegations."

Olver says consumers shouldn't be worried. A message echoed by local gas stations.

"With corporations it's probably not something that anybody has to worry about," says Stop N Go Store Manager Teri Cruz, "With a smaller privately owned [gas station], I would say maybe, it's possible."

The state typically gets between 200 and 500 gas-related complaints, but only a handful about octane.

Olver says the state cannot respond to anonymous accusations like those in the Journal Sentinel article.

So the best advice: if you know of a case of fraud, notify state officials immediately so they can follow up on the complaint.

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