Concerns of Price Gouging in NY, NJ After Irene

Monday, Aug 29, 2011  |  Updated 5:31 PM EDT
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Irene pummeled the East Coast a year ago Monday, wreaking havoc on beaches, homes and infrastructure across the region. Check out this 3-minute recap of our coverage of the most intense days of the storm.

Irene pummeled the East Coast a year ago Monday, wreaking havoc on beaches, homes and infrastructure across the region. Check out this 3-minute recap of our coverage of the most intense days of the storm.

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It was a warning sounded early, even before Irene hit: beware of businesses and merchants that try to unfairly raise prices during and after the storm.

Price gouging is always a concern when catastrophes hit, officials said.

In New York City, one Brooklyn hotel jacked up its room prices from $250 a night to $999 Saturday as Irene barreled toward the area, the Daily News reported. Hotel Le Bleu told the newspaper there were willing customers.

"If you can pay,  then it's on you," one worker told the paper by phone. "There was a lady that booked two nights at that rate."

There are resources available for customers who believe they've been victims of price gouging.

In New York and New Jersey, state laws prohibit vendors against raising costs of essential items like food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights, and services like transportation, during natural disasters or similar market-disrupting events.

In New Jersey, a price increase of more than 10 percent after a state of emergency is called is considered an excessive price increase.

New Yorkers who believe they've been a victim of price gouging by businesses like supermarkets, gas stations, hardware stores, bodegas, delis, taxis and livery cab drivers, can file a complaint with the attorney general's office here.

Nassau County residents can also call the county Consumer Affairs Office at 516-571-2449 to report instances of price gouging and unlicensed tree removal and repair contractors, said county executive Edward Mangano. Customers can check whether a contractor is licensed by visiting nassaucountyny.gov and select "Search for a vendor" under the Consumer Affairs section.

New Jersey residents who want to file a complaint can visit the State Division of Consumer Affairs website or call 800-242-5846 or 973-504-6200. 

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