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Consumer News Release

For immediate release - Friday, March 7, 2003
Contact Bob Brammer - 515-281-6699.

Gas Prices: Letter to the Federal Trade Commission from AGs of Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin

Comment by Bob Brammer, spokesperson for the Iowa Attorney General's Office:

Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller and his colleagues from Wisconsin and Illinois (Lisa Madigan, AG of IL, and Peg Lautenschlager, AG of WI) sent a letter to FTC Chairman Tim Muris on Friday, March 7.

Attorney Generals' letter to the FTC.

The thrust of the letter is to volunteer the States' cooperation with the FTC and ask the FTC to keep a close eye on the situation at the national and regional levels, and especially our states.

Note, we are not accusing anyone of illegal collusion or price-fixing; indeed, the Iowa DNR and other officials have emphasized that supply-and-demand market forces (including refinery problems, the strike in Venezuela, and dynamics resulting from fear of war in the Mideast) probably explain the rising gas prices we've all seen.

Federal and state governments have authority to take action against collusion -- illegal coordinated action between businesses that are supposed to be authentic competitors. Sometimes it might be tempting for businesses to collude, especially if they have some cover of volatile market conditions. We want to avoid that.

The FTC in the last few years created a program to watch wholesale and retail prices around the country in order to identify anomalies in markets that might suggest collusion or other illegal activity not explained by market forces.

Indeed, earlier this week, FTC staffers told our Consumer Protection Division that Iowa price patterns are consistent with national pricing trends and do not suggest anomalies not explained by various market factors.

The states also note that we will watch for any evidence or signs of illegal collusion among retailers in our own states. That's something we have taken legal action on in the past, and we certainly will again if indicated.

[End of statement]