New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Monday launched an investigation into post-storm price gouging after consumers flooded his office with complaints about jacked-up prices for everything from gasoline to hotel rooms.
Schneiderman’s announcement came as AAA, the national automobile club, which tracks gas price trends, said prices in some storm-stricken zones have risen as much as US$0.04 a liter in the week since Hurricane Sandy struck, even as the national gas price keeps falling.
The attorney general said his office has received hundreds of complaints from consumers in areas of the state hit hardest by Sandy — New York City, the Hudson Valley and Long Island.
Sandy, one of the largest storms ever to strike the US mainland, made landfall a week ago with hurricane-force winds wreaking havoc along a stretch of coastline from southern New Jersey to New York’s Long Island and along the Connecticut shoreline of the Long Island Sound.
At least 113 people have died from storm-related causes in the US and Canada, while 1.4 million homes and businesses remain without power. The storm has caused widespread gas shortages.
The largest number of complaints are related to increased gas prices, Schneiderman said in a statement, but consumers have also reported possible gouging for emergency supplies, such as generators, and hotels raising rates due to “high demand,” as well as increased prices for food and water.
“Our office has zero tolerance for price gouging,” Schneiderman said. “We are actively investigating hundreds of complaints we’ve received from consumers of businesses preying on victims.”
Before the storm struck on the night of Oct. 29, Schneiderman’s office warned vendors in the state against price gouging.
AAA said on Monday that gas prices in New Jersey and New York have increased over the last week in areas most damaged by Hurricane Sandy.
The average price of gas over the last week is up about US$0.04 a liter in Long Island, US$0.024 a liter in New York City and US$0.018 a liter in New Jersey, AAA said. The national average is down about US$0.018 a liter over the past week.
Business law prohibits such increases in costs of essential items such as food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights, and services such as transportation, during natural disasters.