AG Chiesa sues suspected price gougers in storm aftermath

November 09. 2012 1:59PM

By Joshua Burd

Seven New Jersey gas stations and a hotel are accused of unlawful price gouging after Hurricane Sandy, the state Attorney General said today in announcing a series of lawsuits.

State Attorney General Jeff Chiesa announced a series of lawsuits against suspected price gougers in Hurricane Sandy's aftermath. (Office of the Attorney General)

Prompting more than 160 consumer complaints, the eight businesses allegedly hiked their prices during the state of emergency declared Oct. 27, with one station accused of going as high as 59 percent above its pre-storm levels, state officials said. The complaints are among nearly 2,000 received by the Division of Consumer Affairs since that time.

Violations of New Jersey's price gouging statute carry penalties of up to $20,000 for multiple offenses, the Attorney General's Office said in a news release. Excessive price increases, defined as hikes of more than 10 percent, are prohibited during a declared state of emergency, or for 30 days after it has been terminated.

In the news release, Attorney General Jeff Chiesa said a Paterson station raised the price of regular fuel from $3.45 to $5.50 per gallon. The business allegedly made about 230 sales of regular gasoline on Nov. 1, and the Division of Consumer Affairs received about 27 complaints, he said.

The other defendants are gas stations in Clifton, Newark, Bloomfield, Perth Amboy and Lyndhurst, along with a hotel in Parsippany. The hotel allegedly raised its prices by 32 percent, to $119 per night, as the state of emergency began.

"We have received no indication that these defendants faced costs that would have made these excessive price increases necessary or justifiable," Chiesa said in a prepared statement, noting that the one gas station allegedly paid less per gallon for a shipment of fuel after the storm than it had paid before the storm.

The state is still investigating hundreds of complaints, Chiesa said.