N.B. gas retailers appeal for relief

New Brunswick gas retailers say the government needs to increase their profit margins on a litre of gasoline or it will continue to hurt their businesses.

New Brunswick gas retailers say the province's energy regulatory board needs to increase their profit margins on a litre of gasoline or it will continue to hurt their businesses.

Mike Hammoud, president of the Atlantic Convenience Store Association, said gas retailers are getting squeezed financially by unfairly low profit margins.

"What are you going to raise them to to offset the cost? And our fear is that some of the stores will close or have layoffs and nobody wins when that happens," Hammoud said.

Retailers can charge as much as five cents more per litre of self-serve gas than they pay.

The former Progressive Conservative government introduced regulated gas prices in 2006 and set the profit margins for both wholesale and retail customers.

The legislation allowed for a review on those margins. In 2008, the Energy and Utilities Board (EUB) upheld the profit margins given to retailers.

The Atlantic Convenience Store Association is asking the EUB to again look at the possibility of increasing the margins given to retailers, though they haven't said by how much.

As well, retailers are asking the EUB to pass the cost of the review on to the public. The last time the regulatory board looked at resetting prices it cost taxpayers more than $70,000 just to keep the status quo.

Hammoud said the cost of minimum wage is going up, along with an array of other fees. All of those factors are putting a strain on store owners.

"We've got credit card fees that have been increasing, utilities, insurance," Hammoud said.

"In reality, it's been almost all of our costs that are rising on an annual basis, where is the money going to come from to pay for all of these?"

Time to hike margin

Lyle Hogan, who has operated Lyle's Coastal Gas in Moncton for 40 years, said during the last four years, the regulated price margin on a litre of gas has been squeezing his business.

Hogan said it's time to increase the profit margin given to small businesses such as his.

"It's due because you get people coming in with credit cards and debit cards and then you have to pay the percentage on the card. You don't make very much to be honest with you," Hogan said.

"I usually work by myself, so that usually helps a little."