After receiving hundreds of complaints from consumers across New York State, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Monday he is opening an investigation into post-Hurricane Sandy price gouging.
The law prohibits increases in costs of essential items like food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights, and services like transportation, during natural disasters or other events that disrupt the market.
“Our office has zero tolerance for price gouging,” said Schneiderman in a statement. “We are actively investigating hundreds of complaints we’ve received from consumers of businesses preying on victims of Hurricane Sandy, and will do everything we can to stop unscrupulous individuals from taking advantage of New Yorkers trying to rebuild their lives.”
The price gouging law covers New York State vendors, retailers and suppliers, including but not limited to supermarkets, gas stations, hardware stores, bodegas, delis, and taxi and livery cab drivers.
Although the office cannot comment on the specifics of ongoing or potential investigations, Schneiderman reported receiving hundreds of complaints from consumers from New York City, the Hudson Valley and Long Island.
While the largest number of complaints related to increased gasoline prices, consumers contacted the Attorney General to report possible gouging for emergency supplies like generators, hotels raising rates due to “high demand,” as well as increased prices for food and water.
“Our office is taking every complaint seriously. Staff from regional offices across the state are triaging and acting on consumer complaints as they come in. We have contacted the targets as part of a preliminary inquiry and vendors are now on notice. While most retailers understand that customers are also neighbors, and would never think of taking advantage of New Yorkers during such disruptive times, emergency circumstances always require an extra sense of vigilance,” Schneiderman said.
If you believe you are a victim of price gouging or a post-hurricane scam, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at 800-771-7755 or find a complaint form online at: www.ag.ny.gov.