Four out-of-state individuals and a North Platte-based lobbying group are suing the owner of the Fat Dogs gas station in Lincoln, accusing the company of deceptive marketing practices in how it advertises fuel prices at its stations.
The lawsuit was filed last week in Lancaster County District Court on behalf of Allison Cramer, Adam Gordon, Eric McVey, Martha Manske and the Coalition for Ethical Petroleum Marketing, a lobbying group that represents gas station and convenience store owners.
It accuses North Platte-based Wilkinson Development of violating the Nebraska Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act and the Nebraska Consumer Protection Act.
The lawsuit alleges that Wilkinson-owned stations use large signs along Interstate 80 to advertise gas prices that are substantially lower than other nearby stores. However, those prices are only available at a couple of gas pumps, which is advertised on "substantially smaller signs, which are difficult to read and visible only once the motorist has pulled into defendants' gas station."
According to the suit, Cramer, who's from Wisconsin, visited the Fat Dogs location at 3100 N.W. 12th St. in Lincoln in May 2015 expecting to pay $2.44 a gallon. However, she discovered after filling up that she actually had paid $2.89 a gallon. Cramer sought reimbursement for the difference, but a clerk at the store refused.
The lawsuit says Manske, who is from Wisconsin, had a similar experience. In October of 2016, she paid 69 cents more than expected after stopping at the Lincoln Fat Dogs location.
Gordon, who's from Massachusetts, and McVey, who's from Iowa, both had similar experiences at the Fat Dogs station in Grand Island in August 2016, according to the suit.
The lawsuit alleges the same pricing practices occur at four other Wilkinson-owned stations in Lexington, North Platte, Ogallala and Sidney.
The suit seeks seeks actual damages for the plaintiffs and attorney's costs as well as a court injunction prohibiting the stations from continuing the alleged deceptive advertising practices.
Officials from Wilkinson Development did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
Wilkinson settled a similar complaint with then-Attorney General Jon Bruning in 2007 and agreed to add signage directing consumers to the pumps with the lowest price.
In an interesting twist to the case, it is Bruning's private law firm that is representing the plaintiffs.
Attorney Katherine Spohn said it is her clients' contention that Wilkinson is not fulfilling the requirements of that agreement and that its stations "continue to scam consumers."