New Jersey AG sues businesses for post-Sandy price gouging

New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa recently announced that the state is pursuing civil lawsuits against seven gas stations and a hotel in northern New Jersey. The gas stations allegedly raised fuel prices between 17 and 59 percent higher during the state of emergency brought on by the storm. The hotel is accused of raising its rates by 32 percent.

The issue of price gouging frequently arises after natural disasters, when people are in desperate need of services like lodging and gasoline and not all businesses are able to provide them. Unscrupulous businesses that have those goods or services may take advantage of consumers’ desperation and raise prices unreasonably high to increase their profits.

Price gouging occurs when a business or merchant raises the price of an item or service beyond what is considered reasonable or fair. New Jersey law already considers the needs of merchants who face extra costs during an emergency, allowing them to raise prices up to 10 percent above normal markup.

The state has received about 2,000 complaints of price gouging related to Hurricane Sandy, about 83 percent of which involved gas stations. The Consumer Affairs Division has issued more than 170 subpoenas to New Jersey businesses.

People and families in New York and New Jersey have enough to worry about in the wake of Superstorm Sandy. Between property damage, closed businesses and added financial burdens, consumers are already facing significant stress caused by the storm. No one deserves to be taken advantage of in such a vulnerable situation.

If you have suffered personally or financially at the hands of an unscrupulous business, it may be wise to speak with a business law attorney experienced in consumer protection matters. They can help you review your case, protect your rights as a consumer and pursue any legal remedies or compensation that may be appropriate.

Source: NBC New York, “NJ AG Sues 8 Businesses Over Sandy Price Gouging,” Nov. 9, 2012

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