Are you driving around with inferior grade fuel in your car? State officials have charged 14 gas stations with misleading consumers by selling gas with octane levels lower than those advertised on the pumps.

The New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures (OWM), within the State Division of Consumer Affairs, joined the Bergen County, Camden County, Gloucester County, and Middlesex County offices of weights and measures, in announcing charges against 14 gas stations accused of misleading consumers by selling fuel with octane levels lower than those advertised on the pumps.

The civil complaints follow a two-week campaign of unannounced octane tests, led by the State OWM at 325 gas stations across New Jersey. The tests, conducted by a joint task force of inspectors from the State OWM and from 13 county OWMs, found that the majority of gas stations were in compliance with the State's Motor Fuels Act, but not all.

"With the holiday travel season here, New Jersey's consumers will be filling up their gasoline tanks. With some stations charging over $4 per gallon for premium grade gasoline, we want to ensure that consumers are getting their money's worth," said Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. "Of the 325 gas stations inspected, four percent allegedly practiced deceptive advertising with regard to the quality of fuel sold. We're holding them accountable."

The unannounced inspections included field tests with portable octane testers. Any fuel samples that appeared to present a violation, or presented unclear results, or could not be tested onsite for any reason, were sent to a laboratory in Philadelphia or New York for comprehensive testing. A total of 40 samples were sent to the labs, and those from 14 gas stations are alleged to be in violation.

As a result of those tests, four county OWMs filed complaints against the following gas stations, charging them with violations of New Jersey's Motor Fuels Act, or violations of the State's Weights and Measures Statute. Each station charged with violating the Motor Fuels Act faces a fine of up to $1,500 for a first violation, and up to $3,000 for subsequent violations, as well as a 5-to-30 day suspension of its license to operate. Each station charged with a violation of the Weights and Measures Statute faces a fine from $250 to $1,000 for the first violation, and fines between $1,000 and $5,000 for subsequent violations.

In Bergen County:

· US Gas / Mmarmab LLC, 90 Hackensack Ave, Hackensack, NJ 07601

In Camden County:

· Citgo, 302 South Black Horse Pike, Blackwood, NJ

· Jessie's Gulf, 720 White Horse Pike, Oaklyn, NJ 08107

· Runnemede Extra, 405 E. Clements Bridge Rd., Runnemede, NJ 08078

· US Gulf, 1200 Route 73, Pennsauken, NJ 08110

In Gloucester County:

· Glassboro Lukoil, 100 Delsea Dr., Glassboro, NJ 08028

· Gurbittha Gas LLC Lukoil, 500 North Broad St., Woodbury, NJ 08096

· Mantua Pike Lukoil, 897 Mantua Pike, Woodbury

· US Gas / Bahadur Singh, Inc., 724 Delsea Dr., Malaga, NJ 08324

In Middlesex County:

· Edison Fuel Stop, 690 Route 1 North, Edison, NJ 08817

· Fuel One Inc., 869 Route 1 South, Avenel, NJ 07001

· Fuel One Inc., 279 Route 1 South, Edison, NJ 08817

· North Brunswick Express Fuel, 483 Georges Rd., North Brunswick, NJ 08902

· PAK Petroleum Citgo, 1614 Stelton Rd., Piscataway, NJ 08854

"The New Jersey Office of Weights and Measures and the county offices are committed to ensuring the honesty of gas stations, and for that reason we conduct unannounced octane tests on a yearly basis throughout the state," said Robert Campanelli, Acting Superintendent of the State Office of Weights and Measures, said. "This year we invited 13 county offices of weights and measures to participate in a statewide effort, to ensure the integrity of as many stations as possible."

Octane is a hydrocarbon liquid found in gasoline and other fuels. When octane levels are too low, gasoline can self-ignite during compression, out of sync with the timing of the engine's valves and pistons. This can lead to a persistent knocking sound in the engine, and in severe cases can lead to significant engine damage such as broken connecting rods, melted pistons, or other damaged components. The risk is especially acute with high-performance vehicles for which a higher octane rating is recommended, but can affect any vehicle if the octane level is substandard.

Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website, or by calling 1-800-242-5846.

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