Gas prices hit $8 a gallon at some Lukoil stations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania as part of a protest by franchisees who say the Russian-based oil company's policies damage their ability to compete.
"We were all at a breaking point," Sal Risalvato of the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience, Automotive Association told the Associated Press in explaining the protest.
Risalto said owners of Lukoil gas stations are forced to pay higher prices for gas than the competition, who charge less for fuel, according to the AP.
A Lukoil gas station in South Plainfield, N.J., posted prices of $8.99 a gallon for regular and $9.49 a gallon for premium, Fox News reported. Buying premium gas with a credit card cost $9.59 at the station.
Lukoil, the second largest oil producer in Russia, did not respond to the AP's request for comment on the protest.
The Russian company first established gas stations in the American market in 2003 and has grown to more than 500 locations in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S., according to the AP.
The $8 gas was not meant to hurt consumers of the franchisees, but was a protest to raise awareness of what Lukoil gas station owners go through, Risalvato told the AP.
Risalvato said gas stations participating in the protest by bumping up prices to $8 a gallon also planned to hand out fliers to drivers that explains why the franchisees face difficulties competing with other gas station owners.
"They essentially sell the very same gasoline to stations in close proximity of each other at different prices in order to game the market and compete with other gasoline brands," he told the AP. "In doing so, the price may differ by as much as 25 cents a gallon, and place one retailer and the retailer's customers at an enormous disadvantage over another station."
Risalvato said the economic situation at any given moment usually has no effect on Lukoil's gas prices in relation to its competition.
"No matter what the market conditions are on a particular day, Lukoil's prices are higher than just about every retail competitor," he told the AP.
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