In Aftermath Of North Country Ice Storm, A.G. Schneiderman Warns Against Price Gouging Of Necessary Goods And Services

State Law Prohibits Excessive Increases In Costs Of Essential Goods Like Food, Water, Gas, Generators, Batteries And Flashlights

NEW YORK – In response to the winter ice storm emergency declared by Governor Cuomo for New York’s North Country, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued an open letter to vendors in affected areas to warn against price gouging, the inflation of the price of necessary goods and services. General Business Law prohibits such increase in costs of essential items like food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights, and services like tree trimming/removal or emergency structural repairs, during natural disasters or other events that disrupt the market.

“While most vendors understand that customers are also neighbors and would never think to take advantage of others during such disruptive times, the conduct of some businesses after Hurricane Sandy shows us that times like these require extra vigilance and caution,” Attorney General Schneiderman said. “As Attorney General, it is my responsibility to enforce the price-gouging law, and while my hope is that I will not need to do so, my office is certainly prepared to take action.”

New Yorkers may contact the Attorney General’s Office to file complaints about potential price gouging online here

The open letter is addressed to New York State vendors, retailers and suppliers, including but not limited to supermarkets, gas stations, hardware stores, tree trimming/removal services, and taxi and livery cab drivers. It should be noted that New York State’s price-gouging statute goes into effect only in areas where a state of emergency has been declared. 

A copy of the letter is below.

December 23, 2013

This open letter is addressed to anyone selling necessary consumer goods and providing essential services in the regions affected by the damaging Northern New York ice storm and flooding.  The damage to trees, homes and infrastructure has taken all of us aback.

New Yorkers have and will continue to rely upon you for the items needed to prepare for, weather, and recover from the ice storm and storm-related damage, as we all stock up on water, food, batteries, de-icers, sand, generators, fuel and other essentials.  Perhaps even more, we rely on you to assist us in recovering from the damage left to our trees and homes.  It can be a thankless responsibility, and we all owe you our gratitude.

While most understand that customers are also neighbors and would never think of taking advantage of others during such disruptive times, these circumstances always require extra vigilance and preparation.

This notification should serve as a reminder to vendors and consumers that state law prohibits price gouging at times when nature demonstrates its disruptive fury. The New York General Business Law forbids those who sell essential consumer goods and services from charging excessive prices during what is clearly an abnormal disruption of the market. Those who do so will ultimately see a reduction in their profits and will be faced with penalties, fines and directives to set up reimbursement funds.

As Attorney General, it is my responsibility to enforce the price-gouging law, and while it is my hope that I will not need to do so, my office is certainly prepared. We will review pricing data and take such complaints filed with my office seriously, as we do with any matter.

New Yorkers have always been at their best when facing adversity, and I am confident that we will live up to that standard throughout this storm recovery.

Eric T. Schneiderman
New York State Attorney General

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