Gasoline Marketing:

Consumers May Not Be Receiving the Octane They Are Paying for or May Be Unnecessarily Buying Premium Gasoline

T-RCED-91-65: Published: Jun 12, 1991. Publicly Released: Jun 12, 1991.

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GAO discussed: (1) gasoline octane mislabelling; and (2) possible consumer overbuying of premium gasoline. GAO noted that: (1) consumers may be unknowingly purchasing gasoline with lower octane than they need due to mislabelled octane ratings on gasoline pumps; (2) the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had not tested octane ratings at retail stations since 1981, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) failed to ensure that octane testing requirements were being met or prosecute violators; (3) the extent of mislabelling nationwide is unknown, but industry and state information indicates that mislabelling is occurring and is costly to consumers; (4) the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act excluded the newer gasoline-alcohol blends from octane posting requirements; (5) although states agreed that testing for octane rating accuracy was an effective deterrent to mislabelling, only 32 states had such programs; (6) involving states in testing octane ratings could better ensure that consumers receive the octane they pay for; and (7) the 3- to 26-percent difference between premium gasoline sales and the automotive fleet needing premium gasoline indicated that consumers might have spent from $441 million to approximately $4.3 billion in 1989 for unnecessary premium gasoline. GAO believes that consumers need increased awareness about vehicle octane requirements and posted octane rating accuracy.

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