The state attorney general is warning vendors and retailers against artificially raising prices in the wake of this weekends ice storm.
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued an open letter Monday to vendors warning them that gouging consumers for essential items like food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights is a violation of the state General Business Law. He also cited tree removal or trimming or emergency structural repair to damaged buildings as services that could seek higher prices in the event of an emergency.
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, Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement.
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. The states price-gouging statute goes into effect only in areas where a state of emergency has been declared, such as the winter ice storm emergency that has been pronounced for the north country by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The open letter was issued to vendors, retailers and suppliers, including but not limited to supermarkets, gas stations, hardware stores and tree service companies, as well as other providers of essential services.
Perhaps even more, we rely on you to assist us in recovering from the damage left to our trees and homes, the attorney general wrote. It can be a thankless responsibility, and we all owe you our gratitude.
Mr. Schneiderman said any business that engages in price gouging will face penalties, fines and directives to set up reimbursement funds. Anyone who believes they have been a victim of price gouging can contact the attorney generals office to file a complaint through the offices website at www.ag.ny.gov.