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Suit claims rip-off in oil rebates

A coalition of 17 labor, consumer, and public-interest groups filed suit to invalidate almost $1 billion worth of settlements the Department of Energy has reached with oil companies on overcharges to consumers. The coalition charged that the settlements are "a monstrous consumer fraud" because they recoup only one penny on the dollar for consumers.

The suit challenges the terms of nearly 30 out-of-court settlements reached between the agency and refiners on more than $10 billion in alleged overcharges to consumers between 1973 and '76.

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The coalition says the settlements are illegal because they do not provide full restitution to victimized consumers on whose behalf the agency was supposedly negotiating with the oil companies.

William Winpisinger, president of the Citizens-Labor Energy Coalition and the International Association of Machinists, said the agency's "traditional posture of siding with the corporations and against consumers" made the suit necessary. He said the average American family of four "has been ripped off to the tune of only $2.

Other groups filing suit included Energy Action; arms of the AFL-CIO, the United Automobile Workers, and the United Steelworkers; the Solar Lobby; the National Farmers Union; The United States Conference of Mayors; and the Urban Coalition.

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