New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday issued an alert reminding consumers and businesses in Western New York and the North Country against price-gouging amid the snowstorm and declared state of emergency.
Her team said, “A winter storm is expected to bring heavy snow, freezing rain and gusty winds in Western New York and the North Country. New York’s price-gouging statute prevents businesses from taking advantage of consumers by selling essential goods or services at an excessively higher price during market disruptions or a declared state of emergency.”
James said, “Taking advantage of consumers during emergencies will not be tolerated. As New Yorkers prepare for the heavy winter storm, this is a reminder that retailers cannot hike prices to profit off emergencies. I urge New Yorkers to remain vigilant as the storm passes, and encourage anyone who believes they are a victim of price-gouging to contact my office immediately.”
A press release said, “New York law prohibits businesses from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services that are vital to their health, safety or welfare for an unconscionably excessive price during times of emergencies. The price-gouging statute covers New York state vendors, retailers and suppliers, and includes essential goods and services that are necessary for the health, safety and welfare of consumers or the general public. These goods and services include food, water, gasoline, generators, batteries, flashlights, hotel lodging and transportation options. Contract services for storm-related damage, both during and after a natural disaster, are also covered by the state’s price-gouging statute.”
The AG’s team said consumers can protect themselves when hiring contractors to perform storm-related services by considering the following tips:
√ Shop around – Get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided for the job.
√ Get it in writing – Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work needed.
√ Don't pay unreasonable advance sums – Negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job. Never pay the full price up front.
√ Get references – Check with the Better Business Bureau, banks, suppliers and neighbors. Always contact references provided to you.
√ Know your rights – You have three days to cancel after signing a contract for home improvements. All cancellations must be in writing.
When reporting price-gouging to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG), consumers should:
√ Report the specific increased prices, dates and places that they saw the increased prices, and the types of formula being sold; and,
√ Provide copies of their sales receipts and photos of the advertised prices, if available.
New Yorkers can report potential concerns about price-gouging to OAG by filing a complaint online or calling 800-771-7755.