NY Retailer Fined $20,000 for Price Gouging at Four Stores

Prices jumped as much as 90 cents per gallon after Hurricane Sandy: AG

NY Retailer Fined $20,000 for Price Gouging at Four Stores

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- As part of his ongoing probe of high gasoline prices in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman reached a settlement with four gas retailers in Westchester County.

The principal owner of the stations, Sammy Eljamal, has agreed to pay $20,000 in penalties for charging unconscionably excessive prices after Hurricane Sandy, according to Schneiderman’s office. Those penalties come on the heels of more than $300,000 in penalties imposed on 47 other businesses for illegal gouging after Sandy.

“As thousands of New Yorkers sat in line for hours waiting to buy gasoline during the state of emergency created by Hurricane Sandy, some crooked station owners increased their retail prices by excessive and illegal amounts,” Schneiderman said. “Today, we are continuing to send the message that ripping off New Yorkers during a natural disaster is against the law and that those who engage in illegal price gouging will be held accountable.”

Since the October 2012 storm, the Attorney General's Office has zeroed in on illegal price gouging and has obtained $309,885 in penalties and costs from 47 downstate gas stations that engaged in illegal price gouging.

In the days after the storm, parts of New York saw some of the largest jumps in gas prices in state history. The price jumps resulted in hundreds of complaints received by Schneiderman’s office and showed that prices were rising at the pump not only overnight, but several times a day.

New York State’s Price Gouging Law prohibits merchants from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an “unconscionably excessive price” during natural disasters. The price-gouging law covers New York State vendors, retailers and suppliers. The law specifically says that a price may be considered excessive if there is a “gross disparity” between the prices charged immediately before and after the emergency and the disparity is not attributable to higher costs imposed on the seller.

Schneiderman reported that gasoline prices at Eljamal’s four convenience stores rose between 34 cent and 85 cents reaching as high as $4.90 per gallon after the storm.