ANNAPOLIS, Md. (April 5, 2001)—The Washington-Maryland-Delaware Service Station & Automotive Repair Association, a close ally of the International Tire & Rubber Association, won a major battle in the Maryland Legislature against predatory pricing of gasoline and related products.
The bill, which passed both the state House of Delegates and Senate by wide margins, greatly simplifies the method by which small service stations can challenge below-cost pricing by large chains.
Under the new law, the state comptroller must begin investigating within three days when he receives a predatory pricing complaint. If he finds the charge to be true, he must order the violator to stop the below-cost sales, and can suspend or revoke the violator´s license, fine him up to $5,000 and impose a jail term of up to one year if he ignores the order.
Retailing giants such as Wal-Mart and Safeway opposed the bill, as did the Maryland Chamber of Commerce and Maryland Retailers Association, noted Roy E. Littlefield III, executive director of the WMDA and director of government relations for ITRA.
"This is model legislation for small business," Mr. Littlefield said. "This gets predatory pricing actions out of the courts, and gets below-cost sales stopped before they hurt small retailers."