Biden Administration Asks FTC to Look Into 'Illegal Conduct' Prompting Gas Price Increases

President Joe Biden's administration asked the Federal Trade Commission about looking into "illegal conduct" that prompted gas prices to increase once again.

Brian Deese, National Economic Council director, asked FTC Chair Lina Khan about monitoring "the U.S. gasoline market and address any illegal conduct that might be contributing to price increases for consumers at the pump." However, the FTC is an independent agency and can only take advice—but not direction—from the White House.

Gas prices continued to increase all summer throughout the nation as Americans began their summer road trips. In mid-July, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.16 while drivers from just a year ago were paying $2.19 per gallon.

Analysts said the prices will likely stay above $3 per gallon through the rest of the summer season.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Capitol Wants FTC to Investigate Gas Prices
President Joe Biden's administration asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the increase in gas prices for "illegal conduct." In this photo, a sign at 76 gas station in Lafayette, California, showing high gas prices, February 26, 2018. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan on Wednesday called on the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries to move faster to restore global supply of petroleum to pre-pandemic levels, as the White House asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the domestic gasoline market for any anti-competitive behavior that could be increasing prices.

The joint actions Wednesday come as the Biden administration is increasingly sensitive to rising prices across the economy as it faces both political and policy pressure from inflation.

"Higher gasoline costs, if left unchecked, risk harming the ongoing global recovery," Sullivan said in a statement. He said the administration was pressuring OPEC and producers allied with the cartel, both in public and in private, to more swiftly undo the production cuts put in place at the start of the pandemic.

Wednesday's report from the Labor Department showed that consumer prices jumped 0.5 percent from June to July, down from the previous monthly increase of 0.9 percent. They have increased a substantial 5.4 percent compared with a year earlier, erasing much of the benefit to workers from higher pay.

Gas prices are up about a $1.00 from than a year ago, as Americans hit peak summer driving season and return to roads after pandemic shut-ins.

Rising prices, both at the pump and across other consumer goods, have become a potent talking point among Biden's GOP critics. The White House has insisted that inflation will cool as the economy recovers from the twin shocks of the pandemic and the nation's ongoing recovery from the virus-induced lockdowns.

Capitol Asks FTC to Investigate Gas Prices
President Joe Biden's administration asked the Federal Trade Commission about looking into "illegal conduct" that prompted gas prices to increase once again. In this photo, Biden speaks as he receives a briefing in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021, on how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting hurricane preparedness. Susan Walsh/Associated Press