How to spot a problem at the pump

BALTIMORE - There are 40,000 of them across the state and with the gas they're pumping hovering around $3.50 a gallon, there are plenty of complaints about the pumps. 

SPECIAL SECTION | Gas Pump Investigation

But people are calling the state's Department of Agriculture to complain not just about the price, but whether they're getting what they paid for during their fill up. 

Ken Ramsburg with the department's Weights and Measures section says, "With gas prices increasing, the complaints certainly increase but they're not validated."

Ramsburg says 95% of the complaints made to his section are related to gas stations.  And on an average year they handle as many as 700 complaints, putting those issues ahead of routine inspections. 

AAA spokeswoman Christine Delise says Marylanders are in good hands with the state inspectors, but should also be their own advocates at the pump, "Maryland does a good job of inspections of gas pumps and fuel quality but we still recommend that motorists take a few simple precautions to protect themselves from any possible fraud or malfunctioning gas pumps."   

With gas, Delise says you've got to be a careful consumer.  She suggests comparing prices between what's on the sign at the station, what's shown at the pump and what's listed on your receipt. 

And you need to make sure the meter is set to zero when you start your fill up.  Delise warns, "If it blacks out or the numbers jump, that may be a sign that there's possible fraud."

It may also be a sign the pump is unintentionally malfunctioning.  If the problem is reported and serious enough, state inspectors can reject or condemn the machine. 

It happens more than you think.  As part of an ABC2 News investigation, we checked 724 gas stations in five counties around Baltimore.  Within those reports, we found more than 4,000 flagged pumps from the last four years. 

If you think you've found a problem pump, getting it taken care of is as easy as contacting Weights and Measures.  You can reach them at 410-841-5790.  You can also get a complaint form by clicking this link.

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