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New York cracks down on price-gouging in Sandy's aftermath

November 18, 2012|By Joseph Serna
  • In New York, long gas lines were the order of the day after Sandy and, in some cases, so was price-gouging, according to the state's attorney general.
In New York, long gas lines were the order of the day after Sandy and, in some… (Mehdi Taamallah / AFP/Getty…)

New York Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman has put 13 gas station operators on notice that the state is investigating them for allegedly taking advantage of needy customers and inflating prices in the days after Superstorm Sandy.

The notices, sent out Thursday, alert the business owners that the state is beginning to enforce its price-gouging laws, a New York statute that can carry steep fines.

“Our office has zero tolerance for price-gouging and we are taking action to send a message that ripping off New Yorkers is against the law,” Schneiderman said. “We will do everything we can to stop unscrupulous individuals from taking advantage of New Yorkers trying to rebuild their lives.”

PHOTOS: Superstorm Sandy

A week after Sandy made landfall off the New Jersey coast, both New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Schneiderman separately warned their state’s business owners not to dramatically increase prices simply because millions were going to be in need. New Jersey has launched a similar enforcement effort there.

In the weeks after Sandy, Schneiderman’s office received hundreds of complaints from customers about price gouging for essentials like electric generators, food, and cab rides.

A shortage in fuel and shut-down transportation left New Yorkers with few options than to pay.

The days after an emergency or abnormal disruptions in the market call for shared sacrifices, Schneiderman’s office said.

Schneiderman cited two recent examples: a gas station in Long Island City had posted a sign listing gas as $3.89 per gallon, yet when customers went to the pump, customers were charged $4.89 when paying cash or $4.99 if they used a credit card; and in Lindenhurst, the only price shown was scrawled on a piece of plywood, listing gas at $4.99 a gallon.

An AAA Fuel Gauge Report listed the average price of regular gas at $3.97 per gallon the week after the storm.

The 13 notices are part of a widespread investigation, with hundreds more likely to be sent out, officials said.

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 joseph.serna@latimes.com

@josephserna

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