TODAY   |  April 17, 2012

Are you being overcharged at the gas pump?

As gas prices continue to rise, NBC’s Jeff Rossen investigates consumer watchdog claims that you could be losing money when you fill up your tank this summer.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back now at 7:43. and this morning on rossen reports, what consumers are calling a billion dollar rip-off that could be overcharging you at the gas pump . "today" national investigative correspondent jeff rossen is here with the story. jeff, good morning.

>> good morning. you don't need me to tell you gas prices are incredibly high right now and only getting worse. if you're anything like me you shop around for the best price. but consumer groups say, there is a summertime secret at gas stations . cheating you at the pump, out of billions of dollars. talk about sticker shock. $4. $4.50. more than $5 for gas. we're all feeling the squeeze.

>> gas prices are getting crazy.

>> i'm spending way too much money for the gas.

>> reporter: but consumer watchtalks like judy duggen say many drivers don't even know the half of it.

>> it's a huge rip-off of american drivers.

>> reporter: you see, when it's hot outside and the gasoline is warm, consumer advocates say you're not getting what you pay for.

>> every time you stick that nozzle in your tank on a hot day, you're getting cheated.

>> reporter: here's the issue, when gas gets hot it loses energy. meaning your car gets fewer miles per gallon . fill up at 60 degrees and the typical car can go 500 miles . but fill it up when it's 90 degrees , you get ten miles less out of that same tank. but guess what, you're still paying the same amount at the pump.

>> there's no way that we can tell what kind of value you're getting when we pull in to the gas station .

>> reporter: in fact, according to the 2007 congressional report, persamericans were paying an estimated $1.5 billion extra for gas in just that one summer. and gas prices had skyrocketed since. is this fixable?

>> yes, there's technology on the market that would fix it.

>> reporter: gas pumps with special meters would give you the right amount of gas for your money, based on the heat. those pumps are available today. but the gas stations won't install them. in fact, they're fighting it.

>> we simply don't agree that the is worth the squeeze.

>> reporter: he says they're already giving consumers the best deal they can. that drivers benefit in cold weather and installing the new pumps would just be too expensive.

>> putting a $2.4 billion cost on gas station owners would only transfer $2.4 billion to the consumer.

>> reporter: so you're saying if they put this technology into place we have to pay for it?

>> of course.

>> reporter: but here in canada they've been doing it for nearly two decades. now 90% of gas stations use these pumps. that measure and adjust for temperature. so on a hot day, you actually get more gas for your money. consumer advocates say here, no matter what the weather, you actually get what you're paying for. now, angry american drivers have filed class action lawsuits against gas station chains in 21 states. calling it fraud. hoping to force gas stations to install the high test pumps. what is your message to the oil industry , to these gas stations ?

>> the message is just fix it. we're getting ripped off. it's easy to fix.

>> now it looks like the big companies are taking action as part of a legal settlement , costco has agreed to install the new pumps at its gas stations in warm weather states, pending court approval. and now three of the big oil companies, bp, shell and conoco phillips , well they're settling, too. debt tails of that settlement still unclear. but this is not over yet. not by a long shot. other gas station chains are fighting the lawsuit. savannah, they'll be in court next month. we're going to keep an eye on this because i think a lot of consumers maybe want this change.

>> every penny counts these days. jeff rossen , thanks so much.