NOTICE: This is an archived press release. Information contained on this page may be outdated. Please refer to our latest press releases for up-to-date information.

Post date: March 13 2015

A.G. Schneiderman Announces Two Lawsuits And One Settlement Against Contractors Accused Of Price Gouging During Buffalo Snow Storm

Action Taken Against Contractors Accused Of Charging Exorbitant Rates For Goods And Services During State Of Emergency

Schneiderman: Those Who Would Exploit A State Of Emergency For Profit Are Betraying Neighbors In Need

BUFFALO – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that his office has filed two lawsuits and has reached one settlement against contractors accused of price gouging during last November’s massive snowstorm in Greater Buffalo. The contractors are accused of inflating the price for goods and services during the snow storm. In some areas, the storm resulted in up to 7 feet of snow and the declaration of a state of emergency. Under New York State’s price gouging law (General Business Law 396-r), merchants are prohibited from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an “unconscionably excessive price” during an “abnormal disruption of the market,” including severe weather events.

“The people of Western New York pull together during tough times, and that spirit was on full display when the vast majority of neighbors were helping neighbors during the Buffalo snowstorm last November,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Unfortunately, there are people who attempted to exploit this emergency to take advantage of those in need, and today we are taking the first step towards holding people accountable.”

The Attorney General’s Office first issued a warning to contractors against price gouging when a state of emergency was declared following the November storm and encouraged consumers to file complaints about suspected cases of price gouging. The action taken today stems from approximately a dozen complaints received against the three contractors.

The lawsuits and settlement announced today by Attorney General Scheiderman’s Office include the following:

Collingwood Construction

The Attorney General’s Office received complaints against this company for charging $2,000 or more for the company to remove snow from consumers’ roofs in the Town of Cheektowaga and the Lexington Green neighborhood in the Town of West Seneca. The Attorney General’s investigation confirmed that consumers were allegedly charged $2,000 or more to have snow removed from their roofs, and, in several other cases, consumers were allegedly charged between $1,400 - $1,900. The Attorney General's lawsuit alleges that, in most cases, the company failed to remove all snow from roofs, as it only agreed to remove 4 feet of snow from the gutter upward, leaving a significant amount of snow left on the roofs. The investigation further revealed that some of the jobs appeared to take less than an hour for the crew to complete. The average going rate for roof snow removal was in the $500-$600 range and the Attorney General’s office believes that the rates charged during the storm were unconscionably excessive and constitute price-gouging under New York law. 

In addition to the alleged snow removal issues, the Lexington Green neighborhood was devastated by flooding back in January of 2014. As a result of the flooding, approximately 70 homes were damaged. Neighbors are still working to recover all they lost, and as the warmer weather approaches, the potential for additional flooding is a very real concern. In an effort to prevent future flooding, the Army Corp of Engineers and town officials are teaming up for a study of the ice jam flooding problem.

Action: A lawsuit has been filed against Collingwood Construction seeking restitution for consumers, a civil penalty of $25,000, and an injunction against Collingwood Construction prohibiting it from offering any consumer services at an unconscionably high price.

Buffalo and Orchard Park Topsoil

The Attorney General’s Office and the company reached a settlement after the office received several complaints against this company for charging up to $650 to remove snow from consumers’ driveways during the November 2014 storm. The Attorney General’s investigation revealed $650 was at least double what other contractors were charging for the same service. The company agreed to pay restitution to each consumer in the amount it paid in excess of $300, and a fine in the amount of $150 per occurrence.

Action: The Attorney General’s Office reached a settlement with Buffalo and Orchard Park Topsoil. The company agreed to pay restitution to each consumer in the amount it paid in excess of $300, and a fine in the amount of $150 per occurrence.

Charles Cooper

The Attorney General’s Office filed suit against Charles Cooper, an individual from Lodi, NY (Central NY) who holds himself out as the owner of C & C Construction. The Attorney General’s Office received a complaint against Cooper for charging a homeowner in the Town of Alden $2,000 to remove snow from his roof. Cooper had initially demanded that the consumer pay $4,000, which the consumer refused. The suit alleges that Charles Cooper charged the homeowner an unconscionable price for snow removal services and engaged in price-gouging under New York Law.  The suit seeks restitution for the consumer, fines, a penalty in the amount of $25,000, and in injunction prohibiting Cooper from engaging in future price-gouging activity

Action: The Attorney General’s Office has filed a lawsuit against Charles Cooper seeking restitution for consumers, a civil penalty of $25,000, and an injunction against Cooper prohibiting him from offering any consumer services at an unconscionably high price.

The claims made in the lawsuits are allegations until proven in court.