As we reported in recent issues of this Bulletin, Wal-Mart is lobbying several state legislatures to repeal laws that bar below-cost sales of gasoline. Wal-Mart is installing gas stations in the parking lots of hundreds of its superstores. By selling gas below its wholesale cost, Wal-Mart hopes to draw shoppers into its stores and eliminate independent competitors. The problem is, many states have laws that require retailers to sell gas at a minimum mark-up.
Wal-Mart wants these laws repealed and argues that they prevent consumers from getting the lowest possible price. It’s an argument that has won over many state lawmakers, but, according to a recent Wisconsin poll, most voters are buying it. The survey was conducted by the Petroleum Marketers of Wisconsin, a gas station trade association. It found that 69 percent of consumers support the law and believe it preserves fair competition. More than 70 percent said that, without the law, large chains would drive independent stations out of business.
A measure to repeal the law had made it into the Wisconsin legislature’s budget bill, but following the poll’s release in late July, it was quietly dropped.