Merrill Gas Station Offering Discounts After Markup Law Repeal

By: Liz Hayes Email
By: Liz Hayes Email

An area convenience store owner's gas discount program is back in business.

It's thanks to a federal judge ruling making the minimum markup law on gas unconstitutional in Wisconsin.

Wednesday's decision by Chief U.S. District Judge Rudolph Randa declares the badger state can no longer enforce its decades old minimum markup law for gasoline.

And that's making one businessman quite happy.

Raj Bhandari, who owns two convenience stores in the Merrill area, is once again offering 2 cents per gallon discounts to those over 55 years old.

He did the same back in 2007, but was forced to quit after the state threatened him with fines and penalties.

He filed his own lawsuit the same year challenging the gas markup, but recently lost in court.

Bhandari realizes some in Wisconsin favor the law, but he sees this as an opportunity to bring in more business.

"I feel great about that and as I spoke before also it's just a different opinion. Some people think it should be there and some people think that it should not be there," he said.

Though some officials suggest the ruling will only save consumers a few cents per gallon, Bhandari believes his discount will increase his sales by 20 percent.

The 70-year-old law said retailers must mark up gas 6 percent or 9.18 percent over the average wholesale price.

Tom Olson, of Merrill, believes it's about time the law be repealed.

"I think it's good for the consumers and for the station owners because there should be competition all the way around. I think when there's competition it's good for everybody.

Governor Jim Doyle reportedly is in favor of the ruling, but Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen is considering whether to appeal the decision.

"I'm sure that he will. It will be appealed, but I don't know how long it will go," said Bhandari.

But for now, his older customers are happy with the break.

"Although I get terrific mileage here with my Prius, I'm tickled with the discount," said Victor Richardson of Merrill.

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