Appeal, No. 11, May T., 1954, from decree of Court of Common Pleas of Dauphin County, 1951, Equity Docket, No. 2004 and Commonwealth Docket, No. 247, in case of Charles Gambone and Charles S. Gambone, trading as Gambones' Atlantic Service Station v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania et al. Decree affirmed.
Harry F. Stambaugh, Special Counsel, with him Frank F. Truscott, Attorney General, for appellants.
David Goldberg, with him Verlin & Goldberg, for appellees.
Before Stern, C.j., Stearne, Jones, Bell, Chidsey, Musmanno and Arnold, JJ.
OPINION BY MR. CHIEF JUSTICE HORACE STERN
The question involved in this appeal is the constitutionality of the Act of September 28, 1951, P.L. 1548, which amended the Act of June 1, 1931, P.L. 299.
The Act of September 28, 1951, P.L. 1548, provided that every person engaged in the retail sale of liquid fuels shall post on each pump from which the liquid fuels are sold a sign or placard, not less than ten inches in height and twelve inches in width, nor larger than twelve inches in height and twelve inches in width, stating clearly and legibly, in letters and numbers of uniform size and coloring, the selling price per gallon of liquid fuels so sold or offered for sale, together with the name, symbol, trade name, brand or mark of such liquid fuel. In stating the price there shall be stated separately on such sign or placard the amount of State tax per gallon, the amount of federal tax per gallon, and the amount other than taxes charged for liquid fuels per gallon, and the total of these amounts. No sign or placard showing the price of liquid fuels sold or offered for sale or relating to price or prices, other than the signs or placards thus provided for, shall be posted or displayed on the premises or any other place or places adjacent thereto, unless the signs or placards shall be similar as to size, uniformity and coloring of figures and lettering to the sign or placard posted on the pump, and which shall be visible to the public. There was a proviso that when the total selling price to be paid is clearly displayed on a quantity computing device or
calculator attached to the pump, such posting of price thereon shall be considered sufficient compliance with the Act. Section 2 provided a penalty of fine, and in default of payment thereof imprisonment, for any violation of the provisions of the Act.
The portion here challenged is that which prohibits the display of any sign showing the price of liquid fuels sold or offered for sale unless it be "similar as to size, uniformity and coloring of figures and lettering to the sign or placard posted on the pump." In other words, any display of gasoline price signs in excess of twelve inches in height and twelve inches in width is forbidden. The question immediately arises as to the purpose of such a provision. In the bill of complaint filed by plaintiffs, who are engaged in the retail gasoline business in Norristown, they alleged that it constitutes an arbitrary and unreasonable interference with their rights, deprives them of their property without due process of law, and does not represent a valid exercise of the police power of the Commonwealth. Accordingly they sought an injunction against defendants, who are State officials, from interfering with their displaying gasoline price signs of a size greater than that prescribed by the statute. Defendants filed an answer and new matter in which they averred that the purpose of the Act was to prevent fraudulent advertising of prices, price cutting and price wars. Plaintiffs filed a reply, hearing was had, and the court entered a decree adjudging that the portion of the statute complained of was unconstitutional, null and void, and granting the injunction requested. Defendants appeal from that decree.
Probably the most important function of government is the exercise of the police power for the purpose of preserving the public health, safety and morals, and it is true ...