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As gas prices increase, so have complaints of inaccurate pumps

Maryland agency responsible for checking accuracy of weighing & measuring devices
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Posted at 6:00 AM, Jul 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 06:57:37-04

BALTIMORE — With gas prices consistently high, customers want to make sure they’re getting every drop they paid for.

Maryland Weights and Measures, the group working to ensure a fair marketplace by checking the accuracy of scales used in commercial transactions in the state, has seen an increase in gas pump accuracy complaints.

In June, program officials received 26 complaints, compared to 5 in May.

Ken Ramsburg, weights and measures program manager, said customers grow more suspicious with rising prices, but the outcome doesn’t change.

“Most of the complaints that we receive, we investigate and are unfounded,” said Ramsburg.

Of the 26 complaints received in June, only one was verified.

The agency prioritizes complaints, and also inspects the roughly 1,900 gas stations across the state annually with 18 inspectors.

“Right now, we have 18 positions, we’re not really fully staffed right now like everyone else,” said Ramsburg.

But when they visit a station, they check every single meter.

“If it has 8 pumps, it has 16 meters,” said Inspector Eric Richardson. “So, if I start at 8 a.m., I’d probably be done by noon.”

Richardson starts with the card reader.

“I’ll take a peek and verify there’s no skimmers,” Richardson demonstrated.

Then he looks at the display and that the price matches the station’s road sign.

“Make sure it’s a nice clear plate, make sure all the digital segments are intact and there will be no confusion to the customer,” said Richardson.

And before he conducts a 5 gallon fuel test, the meter needs to start at zero.

“There we go, it jumped, it did,” Richardson noted while inspecting a gas pump in 2000 Haines Street and Russell Street.

The pump started at $0.12 before any gas was dispensed.

“If this moves, it cannot exceed $0.01, so this device will be condemned. The business owner is responsible for the repairs. Once the device is condemned, he has 10 business days to remedy the situation and we come back for re-inspection,” Richardson said.

When Richardson returned the following week, the station owner had completed the necessary repairs.

Richardson added that inaccurate pumps are uncommon. Of the 43,984 tests completed in 2021, 18.3 percent resulted in violations.

Customers can look for a State of Maryland sticker on the pump to know the last time it passed inspection.

And from the roads to the stores, weights and measures inspects all devices used to check quantities in commercial transactions including scales at grocery stores, pawn shops, even medical cannabis dispensaries.

“We sample packages that are put up for sale, make sure the contents meet the declaration and also we’re responsible for price verification where the scanned price at the store or the shelf is what the store system finalizes at the cash register,” added Ramsburg.

If you’re concerned about an inaccurate weighing and measuring device, click here to file a complaint. After filing a complaint, an inspector will follow-up to share their findings from the investigation.

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