Attorney General Announces Lawsuits Against Four Service Stations, Settlements With 25 More For Gouging Customers In Westchester, NYC And On Long Island After Storm
Schneiderman: We Will Continue To Protect New Yorkers From Gougers
As part of an ongoing probe of high gasoline prices in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced that he is filing lawsuits against four service stations for violations of the New York State Price Gouging statute and has reached monetary settlements with 25 other service stations totaling $167,850.Investigations are pending against dozens of other gas stations.
The lawsuits, filed in Kings, Nassau and Suffolk County Supreme Courts accuse the stations of charging consumers unconscionably excessive prices in the days immediately following Hurricane Sandy last November.In the days after the storm, areas of New York saw some of the largest jumps in gas prices in state history.The settlements require that those gas stations pay penalties to the state.
“Six months ago this week, as New Yorkers were sitting in lines waiting for hours to buy critical supplies of gasoline, some shady business owners were trying to make a fast buck at their expense,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Today, we are sending a powerful message that ripping off New Yorkers during a time of crisis is against the law and we will do everything in our power to hold them accountable.”
Gasoline price jumps in the wake of the hurricaneresulted in hundreds of complaints received by Attorney General Schneiderman’s office and showed that prices were changing at the pump, not only overnight but several times a day.
New York State’s Price Gouging Law (General Business Law § 396-r) prohibits merchants from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an “unconscionably excessive price” during natural disasters. The price gouging law covers New York State vendors, retailers and suppliers. The law specifically says that a price may be considered excessive if there is a “gross disparity” between the prices charged immediately before and after the emergency and the disparity is not attributable to higher costs imposed upon the seller.
New York State Senator Brad Hoylmansaid, “It’s appalling that gasoline stations in the areas decimated by Superstorm Sandy were price-gouging their customers, many of whom were without heat or electricity. We cannot tolerate this outrageous business practice and I applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for taking the lead in holding the gas station owners accountable.”
New York State Assemblyman Brian Kavanaghsaid, “Swift justice in this case means that those who broke the law in our time of need will be held accountable. The people of New York deserve better than to be socked by price gougers in their time of greatest need.”
City Councilman Dan Garodnicksaid, “We New Yorkers applaud Attorney General Schneiderman for taking swift and decisive actions to go after gas station owners who ripped off New Yorkers in a time of great need. People in my district were swamped by Sandy and were desperate for aid. Help came from many corners, but was blatantly ignored by dozens of service station owners.”
David Yassky, the chairman of the Taxi and Limousine Commission, said, “The transportation provided by taxi and for-hire vehicle drivers in the days before the MTA was back up and running was vital to our city’s recovery from Sandy, and to see some of these hardworking men and women fall victim to fuel gougers was unjust and frankly offensive. I am grateful to the Attorney General and his staff for making sure that violators will be held accountable for their actions.”
Livery Base Owners Spokesperson Cira Angeles said, “Livery drivers provided essential services before and in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In addition to the problems created by the gas shortage, our drivers suffered the abuse of some unscrupulous individuals that took advantage of this crisis to make an extra buck, making it more difficult for New Yorkers to get alternative transportation. We commend Attorney General Schneiderman for holding price gougers accountable and sending a strong message that natural disasters are no excuse to rip-off our fellow New Yorkers.”
(All prices are for regular gasoline. The spread is the difference between the wholesale price paid by the operator and the price charged at the pump.)