Attorney General warns of price gouging

Attorney General Andrew J. Bruck alerted residents to beware of price gouging and consumer fraud following the declaration of a state of emergency in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Ida.

Officials said New Jerseyans recovering from the after-effects of Hurricane Ida should not be faced with price gouging from those who try to take advantage of tragedy, and the state will do everything it can to combat unfair and illegal practices.

“Our message is clear: if you prey on the victims of this tragedy, we will find you and we will make you pay,” said Bruck. “Our laws prohibit price gouging and consumer fraud, and we will crack down on anyone who seeks to illegally profit from others’ vulnerability in a time of need.”

“We will not allow anyone  to unlawfully increase prices for food, gas, hotel rooms, generators, or other necessary items or services, or otherwise take financial advantage of residents as they struggle to recover from the storm damage,” said Sean P. Neafsey, acting director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “In times of emergency, we should all be looking for ways to help those in need, not take advantage of them. Residents are encouraged to immediately report any suspected instance of price gouging or consumer fraud. The Division of Consumer Affairs stands ready to hold violators accountable.”

Tips on Price Gouging:

New Jersey’s price gouging law prohibits excessive price increases during a declared State of Emergency and for 30 days after its termination.

An excessive price increase is any price that exceeds 10 percent of the price the product or service was sold during the normal course of business prior to the State of Emergency.

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. Violators may also be required to pay consumer restitution, attorney’s fees, investigative fees, and injunctive relief. Each individual sale of merchandise is considered a separate and distinct violation.

Tips on Home Repairs:

Victims of natural disasters are often faced with thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs to make their homes habitable again. Homeowners can protect themselves from dishonest home improvement contractors by heeding the following tips:

For more tips on how to avoid flood-related fraud, visit the division’s website.

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 individual or business you are complaining about that you have, including the name 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.

Consumers are also encouraged to file complaints online by visiting the division’s website

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