How to fight post-storm price gouging

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Every weather event; hurricanes, blizzards, you'll unfortunately see price gouging on gas, hotels, and even coffee. Now New York's Attorney General is warning consumers again, after this snow storm, during this brutal blast of cold weather, keep your eyes peeled for price gouging.

In New York, excessive increases in essential goods and services services like gas and food, water, generators, batteries, flashlights is prohibited when gouging laws kick in. Taxis, livery or any type of car services shouldn't be hiking charges during the storm.

Neither should plow operators doing snow removal or even contractors during emergency repairs. If the price isn't right, much higher than before this storm, it could be gouging.

The law takes effect when an abnormal events, like Thursday's storm, triggers a disruption to the market. In New York, all you have to show is a merchant took unfair advantage by selling goods or services for an "unconscionably excessive price."

In New Jersey, gouging laws are a little different and a bit more specific. Price gouging protection only kicks if a state of emergency is declared. In the Garden State, four counties, (Cape May, Atlantic, Ocean, and Monmouth) are under a state of emergency. Price gouging laws remain in effect 30 days after the state of emergency is lifted. Plus in New Jersey, gouging is defined as prices that are hiked at least 10 percent.

If you think you see gouging, the best thing to do is document it by either taking a picture of the excessive price being charged or hang on to the receipt. Then, report it to your consumer affairs or state Attorney General's office. So far, New York's Attorney General says they've received only a handful of complaints. Their office is hoping gougers are heeding their warning. If found guilty of a price gouging offense, fines can range from $10,000 all the way up to $25,000.


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