SOUTH PLAINFIELD - Nearly 50 Lukoil stations across New Jersey protested 'zone pricing' for gasoline today by raising prices to $8.99 a gallon.

Organized by the New Jersey Gasoline Convenience Store and Automotive Association, one franchise owner says the protest is in response to frustration over Lukoil charging more in some areas and less in others.

In response to the protest, Lukoil called zone pricing, ?a commercially reasonable practice used by gasoline marketers for many years, which is fully compliant with New Jersey statutes governing the sale of motor fuel."

Prices returned to normal by about 9 p.m.

Independent Lukoil retailers stage protest over pricing policies