Gas Crisis Fuels Dubious Online Offers

Auto-Lock Gas Prices?

RadioGasDeal.com is one of several sites promoting an offer to let you buy gas at $2.49 a gallon--but the fine print says you're limited to "15 gallons per offer".
Another type of gas savings deal that has generated consumer complaints involves a promise to lock in gas prices at an attractive fixed rate. The Southern Arizona Better Business Bureau, for example, says it has received a number of complaints about this type of offer on sites operated by Free Zone Media, based in Richmond, Virginia.

Free Zone Media operates at least three identical-looking sites (RadioGasDeal.com, GasLockedIn.com, and GasPumpRebates.com) that promote an offer called America's Gasoline Relief Program, which promises to, in effect, lock in gas prices at $2.49 a gallon.

Just as on ExxonMobilGiftCard.com, you must sign up for commercial offers in order to get a gas card that will cover the difference between the actual cost of gas and $2.49 a gallon. The big catch is that one gas card covers only up to 15 gallons of gas purchased. You can find this out on the site--if you carefully read the terms of the program (click on the image above).

In the Southern Arizona BBB complaints, people say that after filling out surveys and joining various buyers' clubs, they never got the gas card. Free Zone Media did not return e-mail inquiries requesting an interview, and no one answered the phone number in the company's WHOIS listing.

MyGallons: Prepaid Cards for Gas

MyGallons.com promises to let members lock in gas prices using prepaid cards, but stopped charging $30 to $40 for membership after the Florida BBB intervened.
In early July the Florida BBB expressed concern over a similar offer from Miami-based MyGallons LLC for a prepaid gas credit card promising tomorrow's gas at today's prices. People paid membership fees of $30 or $40 to be eligible to buy the card, which MyGallons.com said they could use at participating stations to buy gas at the rate they paid online--even if the prices at the pump had gone up.

The company received national media attention, but after receiving several complaints, the Florida BBB determined that, contrary to its advertised claim, MyGallons had no deal in place with a vendor who would be able to process gas purchase transactions.

A spokesperson for the BBB told The Los Angeles Times that it didn't believe MyGallons.com was a scam, but that the BBB did have "serious concerns" about the company.

BBB and MyGallons officials subsequently met, and the bureau's site says MyGallons agreed to change its advertised claims, to stop collecting fees from new members, and to refund membership fees paid by 6000 people. MyGallons.com still accepts new signups, but informs them that the company is "in the process of transitioning to another payment network that can provide the proper level of service."

No Silver Bullets

Other sites promise fuel savings through the use of fuel additives (SimpleGasSolution.com) or magnets (MyEnergyCel.com) that, when attached to your fuel line, are supposed to increase fuel efficiency.

"If any of these really worked, car manufacturers would be the first in line buying this stuff," Paul says. But, he adds, these types of technologies just don't work.

And wishful thinking doesn't mean that a solution exists; as Paul notes: "Everyone just assumes there has to be a way to save at the pump." 

But there is no silver bullet for cutting gas expenses, and you should exercise caution and common sense when you run into these too-good-to-be-true offers. Read the site's terms of service carefully, and run a Google search to see if any complaints have surfaced. A little sleuthing at the BBB's Web site or at gripe sites such as Consumerist.com can also usually help you determine whether an offer is legit or not--and really save you time and money.

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