Fighting Wisconsin's Ban on Cheap Gas

Bhandari v. Nilsestuen 

Reporters ask IJ client Raj Bhandari about his challenge to Wisconsin's government-imposed markups on gas prices while IJ Staff Attorney Bob McNamara, second from right, looks on.

While consumers across the nation are struggling with high gas prices, Wisconsin’s state government is working to make those prices even higher by quashing competition.

In 2006, small businessman Raj Bhandari purchased a gas station on the verge of bankruptcy. He quickly turned the business around, in part by offering high quality service at competitive prices. He also began building ties with the community by offering discounted gas to senior citizens and supporters of a youth sports group. Raj soon learned that, incredibly, these popular discounts could subject him to thousands of dollars in government-imposed fines.

The Wisconsin Unfair Sales Act, a 1930s relic, makes it illegal to sell gasoline without marking it up either 6 percent over cost or 9.18 percent over the local wholesale price-whichever is higher. This not only stifles competition and harms consumers; it is unconstitutional.

That is why on June 26, 2007, the Institute for Justice, a national public interest law firm with a history of defending economic liberty and the rights of entrepreneurs, filed suit in Dane County Circuit Court in Madison on behalf of Raj Bhandari challenging the Wisconsin Unfair Sales Act as a violation of fundamental constitutional rights.


Essential Background


Background: Fighting Wisconsin’s Ban on Cheap Gas

Client Photo

Client Video -

Latest Release: Federal Court Strikes Down Wisconsin’s Cheap Gas Ban (February 12, 2009)

WKBT-TV La Crosse

WSAW-TV Wausau

Launch Release: Entrepreneur Challenges Wisconsin’s Unconstitutional Ban on Cheap Gas (June 26, 2007) Client Audio -
The David Strom Show

Legal Briefs and Decisions

none available

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


June 26, 2007

Court Filed:


Dane County Circuit Court in Madison







Next Key Date


Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Wisconsin Court Rules Against Cheap Gas Prices (January 23, 2009)

none available

Latest Release: Federal Court Refuses to Enforce Unfair Sales Act (October 17, 2007)




Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: IJ Takes On Wisconsin Effort To Quash Competition; Liberty & Law (August 2007)

Article: Wis. Gas Station Owner Fights Markup Law, Associated Press, (June 26, 2007)

Opinion: George Will: Posturing at the Pumps, Washington Post, (May 17, 2007)

Article: Gas Station Owner Told to Raise Prices, Associated Press, (May 9, 2007)

Article: State stops gas discounts at Merrill service station, Wasau Daily Herald, (May 8, 2007)

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