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Post date: November 21 2013

A.G. Schneiderman Announces $20k Settlement With Owner Of Four Westchester Gas Stations For Price Gouging In The Wake Of Hurricane Sandy

Latest Of 48 Settlements Against Downstate Businesses For Price Gouging During Storm Emergency Brings Total Penalties To $350K

Schneiderman: My Office Will Continue To Focus On Illegal Gouging And Protect New Yorkers From Predatory Practices

WHITE PLAINS – As part of his ongoing probe of high gasoline prices in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he has 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. Those penalties come on the heels of more than $300,000 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,” Attorney General 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. Further, the office announced a $40,000 settlement with a Brooklyn hotel in October after determining the establishment charged guests excessive rates for last-minute room reservations in the wake of the deadly storm. 

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 Attorney General 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 (General Business Law § 396-r) 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.

The following stations are covered by the latest settlement:
(All prices below are for regular unleaded gasoline.)

202 Gas Mart (Shell), 3709 Crompond Road, Cortlandt Manor, NY

  • Price before the storm: $3.98
  • Maximum price after the storm: $4.83
  • Increase in price: $0.85

Yonkers Central Avenue Snack Mart (Shell), 1001 Central Park Avenue, Yonkers, NY

  • Price before the storm: $4.20
  • Maximum price after the storm: $4.90
  • Increase in price: $0.70

Ardsley Snack Mart (Shell), 730-731 Saw Mill River Road, Ardsley, NY

  • Price before the Storm: $4.30
  • Maximum price after the storm: $4.90
  • Increase in price: $.60

Tarrytown Snack Mart (Shell), 440 South Broadway, Tarrytown, NY

  • Price before the storm: $4.26
  • Maximum price after the storm: $4.60
  • Increase in price: $0.34

The price increases charged by these stations following Sandy greatly exceeded any additional costs. 

This settlement was handled by Assistant Attorneys General G. Nicholas Garin, James Morrissey, Judith Malkin and Michael Danaher, with the assistance of Stephanie Brideau, Senior Consumer Frauds Representative. The case was supervised by Vincent G. Bradley, Assistant Attorney General-in-Charge of the Poughkeepsie Regional Office, and Martin J. Mack, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs.