East Hanover, N.J., Gas Station Settles Sandy Suit
Retailer who allegedly raised prices above what law allows will pay $26,000
NEWARK, N.J. -- The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, with the assistance of the Division of Law, has settled price gouging lawsuits against a gas station and two hotels, which agreed to pay a total of $89,845.68 to resolve lawsuits that alleged these companies engaged in hundreds of incidents of unlawful price gouging in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
"These hotels allegedly raised their room rates by well over 100% of their normal prices, and this gas station increased its prices in excess of 25%--all at a time when a natural disaster turned the normal laws of supply and demand upside down, New Jersey families were in dire need of shelter and fuel, and price gouging was expressly prohibited due to a state of emergency," Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.
To date, the Divisions of Consumer Affairs and the Division of Law have resolved 21 of the 27 lawsuits filed against businesses accused of price gouging during the Superstorm Sandy state of emergency. Including the three settlements announced today, the State of New Jersey will have obtained a total of $906,158.68 in civil penalties, consumer restitution and reimbursement of fees and investigative costs as a result of the price gouging lawsuits.
East Hanover Amoco Inc., dba C&M Exxon, East Hanover, N.J., will pay $26,000, including $22,946 in civil penalties and $3,054 to reimburse the state's attorneys' fees and investigative costs.
As set forth in the original complaint, East Hanover Amoco Inc. charged as much as $4.79 for credit-card sales of regular gasoline--an increase of 26.3% above its price prior to the state of emergency. The business allegedly charged as much as $5.09 for credit-card sales of premium gasoline--an increase of 34.2% above the price prior to the state of emergency.
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% above the price at which the merchandise was sold during the normal course of business during the state of emergency. If a merchant incurs additional costs during the state of emergency, prices may not exceed 10% above the normal markup from cost.