New York Attorney General Letitia James has issued an alert reminding consumers and businesses across the state against price-gouging during and in the aftermath of Winter Storm Elliott. The powerful storm has already brought heavy wind, ice, snow and freezing rain to Western New York and other regions throughout the state, and is expected to continue.
A press release said, “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 stated, “New Yorkers should be on the lookout for fraudsters who may use this winter storm to take advantage of consumers. Charging excessive prices for essential products during emergencies is wrong, and it is illegal. This dangerous winter storm will impact communities throughout New York state, and I encourage everyone to stay warm, safe and vigilant against price-gouging. If any New Yorker believes they are a victim of price-gouging, I encourage them to contact my office immediately.”
The press release continued, “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.”
Consumers should protect themselves when hiring contractors to perform storm-related services by considering the following tips, courtesy of the A.G.’s office:
√ 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.