NJ Division of Consumer Affairs
The New Jersey Attorney General's office this week announced it has settled price gouging lawsuits it brought against several gas stations after they raised prices following Superstorm Sandy.
The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, with the assistance of the Division of Law, has settled price gouging lawsuits against a gas station, East Hanover Amoco Inc., d/b/a “C&M Exxon,” which agreed to pay a total of $89,845.68 to resolve lawsuits that alleged these companies engaged in hundreds of incidents of unlawful price gouging in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

“This gas station increased its prices in excess of 25 percent – all at a time when a natural disaster turned the normal laws of supply and demand upside down, New Jersey families were in dire need of shelter and fuel, and price gouging was expressly prohibited due to a state of emergency,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.

To date, the Divisions of Consumer Affairs and the Division of Law have resolved 21 of the 27 lawsuits filed against businesses accused of price gouging during the Superstorm Sandy state of emergency. Including the three settlements announced today, the State of New Jersey will have obtained a total of $906,158.68 in civil penalties, consumer restitution and reimbursement of fees and investigative costs, as a result of the price gouging lawsuits.

East Hanover Amoco Inc., dba C&M Exxon, East Hanover, N.J., will pay $26,000, including $22,946 in civil penalties and $3,054 to reimburse the state's attorneys' fees and investigative costs.

It was noted in the original complaint that the gas station charged as much as $4.79 for credit-card sales of regular gasoline--a spike of 26% above its price prior to the state of emergency. The business allegedly charged as much as $5.09 for credit-card sales of premium gasoline--an increase of 34.2% above the price before the state of emergency.

New Jersey's price gouging statute prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency, for merchandise used as a direct result of an emergency or used to protect the life, health, safety or comfort of persons or their property. The law defines excessive price increases as more than 10% above the price at which the merchandise was sold during the normal course of business during the state of emergency. If a merchant incurs additional costs during the state of emergency, prices may not exceed 10% above the normal markup from cost.

Acting Director Steve Lee of the Division of Consumer Affairs said, “New Jersey’s Superstorm Sandy price gougers need to learn that the penalties for violating the law will far outweigh any illicit gains from taking advantage of their fellow New Jerseyans. In these cases, we’re doing everything we can to bring full restitution to victims, and to deter any future attempts to take advantage of the suffering caused by a major disaster.”