Attorney General: Honorable Gloria Schaffer, Department of Consumer Protection, 1994-026 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal

September 16, 1994

Honorable Gloria Schaffer
Commissioner
Department of Consumer Protection
165 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Commissioner Schaffer:

In your letter of May 20, 1994, you inquired whether the State of Connecticut should continue to require car rental companies to be licensed as sellers of gasoline. You explained that some car rental agencies require their customers to return the vehicles with a particular amount of gasoline. If the vehicles are not returned with the requisite amount of gasoline, the agencies will provide gasoline from their own pumps and will charge the customers for the gasoline.

The licensing requirement for the sale of gasoline is set forth in Conn. Gen. Stat.  14-319(a). Based on our analysis of Conn. Gen. Stat.  14-319(a), it is our advice that a car rental agency that sells or offers to sell gasoline to its customers is required to be licensed as a seller of gasoline.

Section 14-319(a) provides, in part:

No person shall sell or offer for sale any gasoline or other product intended for use in the propelling of motor vehicles using combustion type engines over the highways of this state without having applied for and received from the commissioner a license to sell such gasoline or other products. . . . Conn. Gen. Stat.  14-319(a) (1993).

According to your letter, several car rental agencies have objected to the current state policy of requiring licensing for the sale of gasoline, citing Super Glue Corp. v. Avis Rent A Car System, 557 N.Y.S. 2d. 959, 159 AD2d 68 (1990). In Super Glue, the New York Appellate Court held that the New York statute governing licensing for the sale of gasoline applied only to "retail establishments such as service stations." N.Y. Agric. & Mkts Law  192(5) (McKinney 1986). The court distinguished car rental refueling activities as ones not primary to the business of car leasing and subsequently not "retail" establishments under the New York Law. According to that statute, "[i]t shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to sell or offer for sale at retail for use in internal combustion engines in motor vehicles or motorboats any motor fuel. . . ." Id. (emphasis added). The Super Glue decision relies on the lack of a "retail" aspect in the car rental agencies gasoline sales as required by the New York statute. In comparison, Conn. Gen. Stat.  14-319(a) is not limited to "retail" dealers. In fact, "retail dealer" is defined under the Connecticut licensing framework as "any person operating a service station, filling station, store, garage, or other place of business for the sale of motor fuel for delivery into the service tank or tanks of any vehicle propelled by an internal combustion engine." Conn. Gen. Stat.  14-318(7). The term "retail dealer" appears in various references in Chapter 250, such as in reference to mandatory handicapped access and restrictions against fuel surcharges and tie-in or conditional fuel sales. Conn. Gen. Stat.  14-325(b), 14-332a(b) (1993). However, unlike New York, Conn. Gen. Stat.  14-319 makes no mention of such a "retail" prerequisite for gasoline sales licensing and by plain meaning, applies to any seller of gasoline.

We trust this answers your question.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Neil G. Fishman
Assistant Attorney General

RB/NGF/md


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