New Jersey`s price gouging law prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency, or for 30 days after the termination of the state of emergency. Excessive price increases are defined as price increases that are more than 10 percent higher than the price at which merchandise was sold during the normal course of business prior to the state of emergency. Governor Chris Christie declared a State of Emergency on October 1, 2015.
“Especially after Superstorm Sandy, no merchant or business can claim ignorance of New Jersey`s price gouging law,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. “We will not tolerate anyone taking advantage of the suffering of others.”
“Consumers who suspect price gouging in connection with Hurricane Joaquin, for food, gas, hotel rooms, generators, or other necessary items or services, should contact the Division of Consumer Affairs immediately,” said Steve Lee, Acting Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “Division investigators are prepared to act quickly and aggressively to enforce the laws to protect consumers who are dealing with the effects of these storms.”
“Prosecutors across the state already have brought criminal charges against more than 100 defendants who committed fraud in the wake of Superstorm Sandy,” said Elie Honig, Director of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice. “As the nor`easter and Hurricane Joaquin approaches, we will continue to work with the Division of Consumer Affairs to ensure that wrongdoers are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Price-gouging violations are punishable by civil penalties of up to $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for the second and subsequent offenses. Each individual sale of merchandise is considered a separate and distinct event.
Tips To Consumers Concerning Price Gouging:
Following the Superstorm Sandy State of Emergency, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, working with county consumer affairs offices, reviewed more than 2,000 consumer complaints in the days immediately following the landfall of Superstorm Sandy. The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs investigated approximately 200 businesses for alleged price gouging and filed price gouging lawsuits against 27 businesses. All of the lawsuits have been settled, resulting in over $1 million in civil penalties, cost reimbursements to the State, and restitution to consumers. The New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice took action in over 100 cases statewide relating to Superstorm Sandy, bring various criminal charges in price gouging, fraud, and other cases.
Some examples of the matters relating to Superstorm Sandy brought by the Division of Consumer Affairs include the following:
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse in connection with Hurricane Joaquin, can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.