As you return to routine following Winter Storm Jonas, don't hesitate to file complaints if you're subjected to price gouging, New Jersey authorities urged.New Jersey’s price gouging law "prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency, or for 30 days after the termination of the state of emergency," acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.Excessive price increases are defined as 10% higher than goods and services cost during the normal course of business prior to the state of emergency -- unless the increase can be attributed to the seller’s own increased costs during the emergency, Hoffman said.Gov Christie declared a state of emergency in New Jersey on Friday, Jan. 22.
Following Superstorm Sandy, state authorities filed price gouging lawsuits against 27 businesses – mostly gas stations and hotels/motels.All of the lawsuits were settled, producing more than $1 million in civil penalties, cost reimbursements to the state, and restitution to consumers.Prosecutors throughout the state -- assisted by New Jersey's Division of Criminal Justice -- have brought more than 120 fraud cases stemming from Sandy.
“The majority of merchants and businesses in New Jersey would never take advantage of consumers during a state of emergency, but those unscrupulous enough to try will be held accountable,” Hoffman said. “The state’s price gouging laws will be strictly enforced to ensure consumers are not victimized by those looking to profit from their suffering.”
“Consumers who suspect they’re being illegally over-priced for food, gas, generators, lodging or storm-related services in connection with this weekend’s inclement weather should contact the Division of Consumer Affairs immediately,” said Steve Lee, the DCA's acting directly.
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. Each individual sale of merchandise is considered a separate and distinct event.
Report price gouging to the DCA: (973) 504-6240 A special voicemail box has been set up to address storm- related price gouging complaints and will be checked regularly, even if state offices are closed. Leave your name, contact information, nature of the complaint, and as much information about the business you are complaining about that you have, including the name of the business and location.If possible, note what the price of the good or service was before Friday.
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