Parker's CEO Sues to Preserve PumpPal Program Ads

SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Greg Parker, CEO of the Parker's chain of convenience stores, filed a lawsuit against the state of Georgia and the Georgia Agricultural Commission this week in order to block the state's ban on the company's advertisement of its PumpPal club fuel discounts, according to a Savannah Morning News report.

Parker's PumpPal Club allows members who sign up for the club's direct withdrawal debit program to receive discounts of at least 10 cents per gallon. Customers who use other payment methods see a higher amount. Both prices are displayed at Parker's gas stations.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary W. Black sought to end the posting of dual prices, allowing Parker's only to advertise the prices paid by cash and credit card users, something Parker stated contradicts a previous ruling by former Commissioner Tommy Irvin.

"This is a consumer's rights issue," said Parker. "An informed consumer is an empowered consumer."

Parker noted that the c-store chain has sold more than 5.2 million gallons of discounted gas since the program launched last February, saving consumers more than $550,000, according to the report. The lawsuit states that 20 percent of all transactions at Parker's are now paid for with PumpPal cards, and overall fuel sales have risen by more than 45 percent.

Before launching PumpPal, Parker sought and received pre-approval for advertisement of the discount signs in order to ensure they were not misleading, the suit says. "Because Parker's PumpPal Club program has been highly successful with consumers, it has also been very unpopular with its competitors," it continues.

Parker's created the program to discourage the use of debit and credit cards that charged the company costly fees, according to the report.

The lawsuit also alleges that Black overstepped his authority and violated Parker's First Amendment right to truthfully advertise its discount; that if forced to comply, the company will suffer decreased sales and confused customers who may not realize the program is still available; that the ban will cost Parker $80,000 that is unrecoverable even if it is later invalidated; and that the company will have to pay increased advertising costs in order to make up for the removed signs, according to the report.

Agriculture Department spokesman Arty Schronce stated that the department has no comment regarding current litigation.

Parker's currently operates 24 convenience stores and gas stations in Georgia and South Carolina.