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Is Big Oil Pumping Gas Prices?

Consumers packing up the family minivan for a getaway this Memorial Day will get a bit of a break when they fill up their tanks. Gasoline prices are down about 13% from their March highs, to a national average of $1.50 a gallon for regular unleaded as of May 21. But are gas prices as low as they could be? Crude oil has fallen 30% in the past two months, more than twice the drop in price that retail gasoline prices have witnessed in the same period.

Consumer advocates and gas-station owners say industry giants such as ExxonMobil (XOM) and ChevronTexaco (CVX) are playing games on pricing. Franchisees allege they are forced to buy gas from major oil companies at inflated prices, and say they are being pushed out of business by sky-high rent increases on company-owned lots.

A flurry of lawsuits and legislation has been initiated in recent years, as pump prices have climbed. But the experts say it's not that simple. And as yet, there's n

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