A new lawsuit filed against Sunoco alleges that the company touts its gift cards as “just like cash,” but charges customers the higher price charged for credit and debit purchases not the lower price when the customer pays in actual cash.
New Jersey resident Howard Stern says he purchased a gift card based on Sunoco’s “like cash” representations. One ad stated: “Looking for a gift anyone can use? The Sunoco Gift Card is always a good option. It can be used for everything from getting your car repaired, to filling up your tank, to filling up your coffee cup.” Signage on Sunoco gasoline pumps declared: “Sunoco Gift Cards SAME AS CASH.”
The national chain of gas stations – with 4,900 retail outlets in 23 states – charges lower prices for gasoline cash purchases than when a customer pays with debit or credit cards. But on the five occasions in 2013 when Stern used the card, he claims that he was charged the higher credit or debit card price each time he purchased gas and paid using the gift card.
Stern filed a complaint in Pennsylvania federal court seeking to certify a nationwide class of gift card holders who were similarly deceived by Sunoco’s “unconscionable” practice of “knowingly” omitting and failing to disclose material terms and failing to honor its gift card program in violation of New Jersey and Pennsylvania laws.
“Sunoco has received an economic benefit by charging more money and receiving more money from customers than if the gift card program’s public representations had been honored,” according to the complaint.
The suit requests disgorgement and restitution as well as compensatory and punitive damages.
To read the complaint in Stern v. Sunoco, click here.
Why it matters: The complaint alleges violations of common law (breach of contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, and unjust enrichment) as well as alleging Sunoco’s actions ran afoul of consumer protection statutes in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania.