State law prohibits excessive increases in costs of essential goods like food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights
In response to the statewide emergency declared by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in anticipation of Winter Storm Hercules, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued an open letter to vendors warning against price gouging, the inflation of the price of necessary goods and services. General Business Law prohibits such increase in costs of essential items like food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights, and services like tree trimming/removal, emergency structure repairs, or snowplowing, during natural disasters or other events that disrupt the market.
"Unfortunately, alongside acts of good will and kindness, a major storm like this also brings out bad actors who take advantage of their customers," Schneiderman said. "As attorney general, it's my responsibility to enforce the price gouging law and be prepared to take action. I urge anyone who sees unwarranted spikes in the costs of anything, from bread and milk to snowplowing services, to report it to my office immediately."
New Yorkers may contact the attorney general's office to file complaints about potential price gouging activity online here.
The open letter is addressed to New York vendors, retailers and suppliers, including but not limited to supermarkets, bodegas, gas stations, hardware stores, tree trimming/removal services, snowplowing services, taxi and livery cab drivers.
A full copy of the letter is available below.
January 2, 2014
This open letter is addressed to anyone selling necessary consumer goods and providing essential services as New Yorkers prepare for Winter Storm Hercules, which is expected to bear down on the State tonight and tomorrow.
New Yorkers will rely upon you for the items needed to prepare for, weather, and recover from the blizzard, as we all stock up on water, food - including staples such as bread and milk - batteries, de-icers, sand, generators, fuel and other essentials. Perhaps even more, we will rely on you to assist us in clearing our streets and recovering from the damage left to our trees and homes. It can be a thankless responsibility, and we all owe you our gratitude.
While most understand that customers are also neighbors and would never think of taking advantage of others during such disruptive times, these circumstances always require an extra sense of vigilance and preparation.
This notification should serve as a reminder to vendors and their consumers that state law prohibits price gouging at times when nature demonstrates its disruptive fury. The New York 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. Those who do so will ultimately see a reduction in their profits, and will be faced with penalties, fines and directives to set up reimbursement funds.
As Attorney General, it is my responsibility to enforce the price gouging law, and while it is my hope that I will not need to do so, my office is certainly prepared. We will review pricing data, and take such complaints filed with my office seriously, as we do with any matter.
New Yorkers have always been at their best when facing adversity, and I am confident that we will live up to that standard throughout this storm recovery.
Eric T. Schneiderman
New York State Attorney General