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Price gouging: New Jersey has now recovered more than $1 million from Sandy aftermath

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Comfort Suites of Mahwah has agreed to pay $110,000 to resolve allegations of price gouging following Hurricane Sandy, acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs said Monday.

“This hotel allegedly violated New Jersey’s price gouging law nearly 500 times during the first 12 days of the Superstorm Sandy state of emergency, when desperate families had to flee their homes and seek new shelter,” Hoffman said in a news release.

With the settlement, the state has now obtained $1,016,158 in civil penalties, consumer restitution, and the reimbursement of fees and investigative costs, as a result of the price gouging lawsuits, the state said.

And more money may be coming.
 
Five of the 27 lawsuits filed against businesses accused of price gouging during Sandy are still open.

“By now, the businesses that sought to take advantage of this natural disaster have learned that we are relentless in protecting consumers and enforcing the law,” Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. “With recoveries now totaling more than $1 million, these actions should serve as a strong deterrent to price gougers in the future.”
 
In the case of the Comfort Suites Mahwah, the state alleged the hotel raised its room rates to various excessive amounts immediately after Gov. Christie declared a state of emergency on Oct. 27, 2012.

From Oct. 27 to Nov. 7, the hotel allegedly engaged in 473 instances of unlawful price gouging. In some instances, the hotel allegedly charged more than $100 in excess of the price increases that would have been allowed under New Jersey’s price gouging statute.

New Jersey's price gouging statute prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency, for merchandise used as a direct result of an emergency or used to protect the life, health, safety or comfort of persons or their property. The law defines excessive price increases as more than 10 percent above the price at which the merchandise was sold during the normal course of business immediately prior to the state of emergency.

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