New Jersey Attorney General, Division of Consumer Affairs Warn Merchants Against Price Gouging
During State of Emergency
NEWARK – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today warned gasoline retailers, grocers, and other merchants that price gouging is prohibited during the State of Emergency declared in advance of Hurricane Irene.
Dow and Thomas R. Calcagni, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, reminded retailers that the State of Emergency declared by Governor Chris Christie automatically activated New Jersey’s price gouging law. The law makes it illegal to sell merchandise at excessive price increases during a State of Emergency or within 30 days of the termination of the State of Emergency.
"During life-threatening emergencies like this, New Jerseyans should be looking out for each other – not looking to scam each other," Attorney General Dow said. "We will look closely at every complaint about alleged price gouging. Anyone found to be violating the law will face significant penalties."
The law deems price increases excessive if they are more than 10 percent higher than the price at which a good or service was sold in the usual course of business prior to the State of Emergency; or, if additional costs are imposed by suppliers or certain logistical concerns during the State of Emergency, the increase is more than 10 percent of the amount of markup from cost, compared with the markup ordinarily applied.
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.
"We have received several complaints about alleged price gouging. Retailers should know we will conduct a thorough investigation, including an audit of the merchant’s receipts dating back to before the State of Emergency, to examine each and every complaint," Director Calcagni said. "Anyone violating the law will find the penalties they face, far outweigh the profits of scamming their fellow New Jerseyans during a time of great need."
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a 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.