|NEWARK – NEWARK – The Office of the Attorney General and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs are reminding consumers about New Jersey’s price gouging law as the state prepares for possible effects from Winter Storm Stella. Merchants and businesses that engage in price gouging in the State of Emergency declared for this winter storm will be punished to the fullest extent of the law and may face criminal and/or civil sanctions.
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 March 13, 2017.
“Any merchant that unlawfully increases prices for food, gas, hotel rooms, generators, or other necessary items or services in connection with this State of Emergency will face serious consequences,” said Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino. “The state’s price gouging laws will be strictly enforced to protect consumers from being victimized at a time when they’re at their most vulnerable.”
“Consumers who suspect price gouging in connection with Winter Storm Stella should contact the Division of Consumer Affairs immediately,” said Steve Lee, Director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs. “Division investigators are prepared to take action to enforce the laws to protect consumers from unscrupulous merchants seeking to unfairly profit from their suffering.”
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:
- Be Aware of New Jersey’s Price Gouging Law (N.J.S.A. 56:8-107 et seq.). During a State of Emergency excessive price increases are illegal. An excessive price increase is any higher price that exceeds 10 percent of the price prior to the State of Emergency.
- If You Believe Price Gouging is Occurring, Contact the Division of Consumer Affairs. Contact the Division of Consumer Affairs at (973) 504-6240. A special voicemail box has been set up to address Winter Storm Stella --related price gouging complaints and will be checked regularly, even if state offices are closed. Please leave your name, contact information, nature of the complaint, and as much information about the business you are complaining about that you have, including the name of the business and location. If possible, consumers should note the price of a good or service prior to the declared state of emergency, and the price after the state of emergency has been declared, when filing a complaint. Investigators will work to address the complaint as quickly as possible.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse in connection with Winter Storm Stella can file an online complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website at www.njconsumeraffairs.gov or by calling (973) 504-6240.
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