Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Monday, January 22, 2001


National Fuels Corp. Cited in Scheme to Offer 'Free Gas' to New Car Customers

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn has obtained a temporary restraining order in Travis County to halt the sale of "gasoline vouchers" as an incentive to spur prospective new car buyers.

Cited in the petition is National Fuels Corp., a Delaware company with home offices in Seattle, Wash. The company allegedly sold these vouchers to several Texas automobile dealers, who in turn offered them to new car buyers as part of an incentive plan to spur car sales.

"Buying a new car or truck in today's market is a major decision for individuals and families, and making those monthly payments can be challenging," said Attorney General Cornyn. "Having to also deal with a confusing and misleading scheme for gasoline reimbursement - that in the end doesn't save money - is a burden that Texas consumers shouldn't have to deal with."

Under the plan, for example, a dealer would purchase a $500 voucher for $45 and provide these to customers, who then would be responsible for applying for reimbursement by submitting monthly gasoline receipts to National Fuels. With the $500 voucher, the customer could seek reimbursement for up to about $42 per month for a maximum of 12 months.

However, the state's petition, filed by the Consumer Protection Division, alleges deception. Dealerships have received calls from customers complaining that National Fuels failed to activate their accounts and that reimbursements for gas purchases either have not been made or have not been made timely, as advertised. Most recently, customers have alleged that reimbursement checks sent to them from National Fuels have "bounced."

The Attorney General alleges the company has violated the Deceptive Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act by:

  • falsely representing that customers will receive payments within 10 working days;
  • advertising that customers will receive "free gasoline," when customers must submit monthly reimbursement requests by costly registered mail;
  • sending mail correspondence containing voucher activation numbers and reimbursement checks with no return address and no information identifying the correspondence as originating from National Fuels;
  • using unauthorized references to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on their correspondence, which misleads customers about the source of the correspondence and could lead them to unknowingly discard the activation numbers or reimbursement checks;
  • falsely representing to car dealers that it has a business relationship with several major oil companies, which compensate the company for providing product survey information to customers.

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Contact Mark Heckmann, Tom Kelley or Jane Dees at (512) 463-2050.
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