House OKs bill allowing drug, gasoline discounts
Associated Press Writer
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
DENVER (AP) ” The House approved a measure Friday that would allow grocery stores to sell discount gasoline and pharmacies to sell cheap prescription drugs after amending it to make it easier to prosecute companies that engage in monopolistic practices.
The bill (House Bill 1208) was introduced after a federal district court jury ruled last summer that two independent gasoline dealers in Montrose were harmed when King Soopers and City Market sold gasoline below cost. The dealers were awarded $1.4 million.
The grocery store offered discounts on gasoline to customers who bought groceries.
After the ruling, Wal-Mart and Target announced they would charge more for generic drugs in Colorado than the $4 programs they offered in other states.
Rep. Cheri Jahn, D-Wheat Ridge, said the bill was intended to protect consumers, not companies.
“This is simply about allowing consumers in your district to get a gas discount,” Jahn told her colleagues.
Rep. John Soper, D-Thornton, said the bill wasn’t needed because companies aren’t trying to put their competitors out of business, they’re trying to lure customers. He said companies give a discount on one item, but consumers end up paying higher prices for other goods.
“Their intent is to get you to go to their store to buy the groceries there. They’ll give you maybe an extra nickel off on your gasoline, but what they do is increase the price of a loaf of bread,” he said.
Jahn agreed to an amendment making it easier to prove a company is engaging in monopolistic practices after opponents said they need protection.
“By the time it’s at a monopoly, it’s probably too late,” she said.
Independent gasoline dealers said the bill would virtually eliminate the state’s ability to bar monopolies.
Attorney General John Suthers told lawmakers that the Unfair Practices Act passed in 1937 cracking down on monopolies is outdated and there are other ways to protect consumers.
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