As energy companies and convenience retailers continue to adapt in a transitioning energy industry, the 2022 Petroleum Marketing Attorneys' Meeting highlighted important developments including those related to electric vehicles, privacy laws and antitrust considerations. The following are five key takeaways from the conference, which explores issues affecting energy companies and distributors.
Repurposing the motor fuel station and incorporating EVs raises different considerations for today, in the near future, and in the long term.
- Convenience retailers are continuing to evolve and expand their offerings to consumers. Brands must be able contractually to adapt to the constantly changing environment—including ensuring that your franchise, supplier, and real estate agreements provide the flexibility to adapt over time.
- Retailers continue to focus on diverse ways to maximize spaces large and small. We are likely to see sites of all sizes adding a variety of non-traditional offerings to the premises, but also to see attempts to copy the model of bigger convenience retailer sites.
- Innovation is required to overcome infrastructure obstacles hindering wide-scale electric vehicle adoption.
- While there is a large push for expanding resources for electric vehicles, the use of traditional motor fuels and bridge fuels will still be needed in the meantime. Convenience retailers need to strike a balance between offering alternative fueling options with continuing to develop innovative offers to the traditional fuel consuming customer.
- Keep in mind the intersection of traditional PMPA obligations and Section 2807 of the PMPA related to renewable fuel pumps.
Privacy laws are rapidly developing, with many state legislatures actively responding with legislation that varies by jurisdiction.
- As energy companies adopt more innovative technologies directed at consumers, it is imperative they stay apprised of this changing legal landscape.
- How consumer information is handled and disclosed will continue to be legislated by states, and a uniform federal standard is unlikely in the near future.
- Companies that fail to comply with state laws governing consumer information face stiff civil penalties.
- Companies should be aware of the existing biometric laws in Illinois, Texas, and Washington and the potential for more states to adopt similar laws, including some state laws that provide a private right of action with statutory damages for violation.
Antitrust considerations are getting more attention. Be careful not to overlook your antitrust and pricing obligations.
- Some states are making it easier for plaintiffs to bring antitrust claims by abandoning the federal requirement that a plaintiff show injury to competition as a whole rather than merely to a single competitor.
As an energy company, do not underestimate the importance of connecting with juries.
- Jurors generally connect with clear contractual language and companies that help their retailers/franchisees succeed.
Carefully evaluate your options for business partners facing financial distress.
- Because the majority of oil and gas contracts are executory contracts, companies should be aware of the rules governing a debtor's assumption or rejection of those contracts.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.