Newark – As New Jersey braces for a State of Emergency to take effect during this weekend’s winter storm, the Office of the Attorney General and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs are warning residents to beware of storm-related price-gouging.
“We will not allow merchants to take advantage of consumers made vulnerable by this winter storm,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We are asking residents to immediately report 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. Merchants who violate our price gouging laws face serious consequences.”
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 emergency. In anticipation of this weekend’s storm Governor Murphy declared a State of Emergency, which takes effect at noon on January 19.
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.
“Consumers who suspect storm-related price gouging should contact us immediately,” said Paul R. Rodríguez, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “We will be monitoring the Division’s complaint line for messages throughout the weekend and our investigators stand ready to take immediate action to protect consumers from 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.
If you believe price gouging or other disaster-related fraud is occurring, contact the Division of Consumer Affairs at (973) 504-6240. 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. In cases of suspected price gouging, when 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.