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Introduced Version Senate Bill 8 History

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Key: Green = existing Code. Red = new code to be enacted
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Senate Bill No. 8

(By Senators Snyder, Blair, Unger and Cookman)

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[Introduced January 8, 2014; referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; and then to the Committee on Finance.]

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A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new article, designated §47-11G-1, §47-11G-2, §47-11G-3, §47-11G-4, §47-11G-5, §47-11G-6 and §47-11G-7, all relating to prohibiting the practice of zone pricing; defining “zone pricing” as the setting of different wholesale prices for retail motor fuel that operate in different geographic areas; setting forth legislative findings and intent; establishing unlawful acts; making directors, officers and agents of an entity also liable; permitting causes of actions and injunctions; setting forth responsibilities of the Attorney General; establishing criminal penalties; and providing that certain contracts are unenforceable.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:

    That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended by adding thereto a new article, designated §47-11G-1, §47-11G-2, §47-11G-3, §47-11G-4, §47-11G-5, §47-11G-6 and §47-11G-7, all to read as follows:

ARTICLE 11G. ZONE PRICING OF GASOLINE PROHIBITED.

§47-11G-1. Legislative findings and intent; definition.

      (a) The legislature hereby finds and declares that for the past several years motor fuel prices have greatly fluctuated. In some cases, price fluctuations are caused by natural market conditions. In other cases, fluctuations result from artificial manipulation of the market. One such artificial pricing manipulation is zone pricing. For the purposes of this article “zone pricing” is the setting of different wholesale prices for retail motor fuel that operate in different geographic areas. Zone pricing increases the price of retail motor fuel for certain consumers, leading to inequities among consumers and regions around the state. Therefore, the legislature hereby declares that while natural market occurrences may lead to price fluctuations, artificial changes in motor fuel prices unfairly harm many consumers around the state.

§47-11G-2. Unlawful acts.

    It is be unlawful for any person, partnership, firm, corporation, joint-stock company, or other association engaged in business as a retailer or wholesaler within this state, to engage in zone pricing for the purposes of unfairly diverting trade from or otherwise injuring one or more competitors and destroying competition. Each violation is a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, any person, partnership, firm, corporation, joint-stock company, or other association violating this section is subject to the penalty set out in section six of this article.

§47-11G-3. Personal responsibility of directors, officers or               agents.

    Any person who, either as director, officer or agent of any firm or corporation or as agent of any person who violates this article, assists or aids, directly or indirectly, in that violation shall be responsible equally with the person, firm or corporation for whom he or she acts. Each violation is a misdemeanor, and upon conviction that person who violates this section is also subject to the penalty set out in section six of this article.

§47-11G-4. Injunctions and damage suits.

    Any person, firm, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company, or trade association may maintain a proceeding to enjoin a continuance of any act or acts in violation of this article and, if injured thereby, for the recovery of damages in the circuit court of the county wherein the zone pricing is alleged to have occurred. If the court finds that the defendant is violating or has violated this article, it shall enjoin that defendant from continuing the practice. It is not necessary that actual damages to the plaintiff be alleged or proved. In addition to such injunctive relief, the plaintiff in the action is entitled to recover from the defendant three times the amount of the actual damages, if any, sustained.

§47-11G-5. Certifications to and duty of Attorney General as to                companies convicted or enjoined; suits to forfeit                charters and privileges and enjoin business                permanently; jurisdiction.

    Whenever any person, firm, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company, or trade association has been founded to have violated this article, or enjoined from violating this article, it is be the duty of the clerk of the court to certify the conviction or injunction decree to the Attorney General. Upon the third conviction for the violation of this article, or whenever an entity has been enjoined three times from violating this article, the Attorney General shall institute proper suits in any circuit court in this state for the forfeiture of its charter, rights, franchises or privileges and powers exercised by that entity, and to enjoin permanently the violator from transacting business within this state. Jurisdiction is vested in the circuit courts of this state to carry into effect of sections four and six of this article.

§47-11G-6. Penalties for violations.

    In addition to any other penalties, any person, firm, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company or other association, whether as principal, agent, officer or director, for himself, or itself, or for another person, or for any person, firm, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company or other association, who or which violates this article, is guilty of a misdemeanor for each single violation and upon conviction, shall be fined not less than $25,000 nor more than $100,000, or by confined in jail not exceeding ninety days, or both fined and confined.

§47-11G-7. Contracts violating article illegal and unenforceable.

    A contract, express or implied, made by any person, firm, partnership, corporation, joint-stock company or other association, in violation of this article, is an illegal contract and no recovery may be made.



    NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to prohibit the practice of zone pricing of gasoline. The bill defines zone pricing as the setting of different wholesale prices for retail motor fuel that operate in different geographic areas. The bill makes legislative findings and intent. The bill establishes unlawful acts. The bill makes directors, officers and agents of an entity also liable to ensure that all parties in the supply chain of retail gasoline are covered by the statute. The bill permits causes of actions and injunctions. The bill sets forth responsibilities of the Attorney General. The bill establishes criminal penalties. The bill provides that certain contracts are unenforceable.


    

    This article is new; therefore, strike-throughs and underscoring have been omitted.

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