New York authorities are investigating widespread reports of price-gouging on fuel, water and other vital items in the wake of superstorm Sandy, officials said.
“Our office has zero tolerance for price-gouging,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “We are actively investigating hundreds of complaints we’ve received from consumers of businesses preying on victims.”
Schneiderman said his office has received complaints from consumers from areas of the state hit hardest when the massive storm struck one week ago – New York City, the Hudson Valley and Long Island.
The largest number of complaints are related to increased gasoline prices, he said in a statement, but consumers have also reported possible gouging for emergency supplies like generators, hotels raising rates due to “high demand”, as well as increased prices for food and water.
New York law prohibits sharp price increases for essential items including food, water, gasoline, generators, flashlights and transport during natural and other crises.
All storekeepers, gas stations, hardware stores, taxi drivers and others providing basic services are bound by the law.
Anecdotal evidence is particularly growing of gas stations taking advantage of the post-Sandy fuel shortage by raising the New York area’s already comparatively high prices.
The US Department of Justice also warned against “unscrupulous people out there who will try to scam victims of Hurricane Sandy or disaster-relief agencies like FEMA or the Red Cross.”
The department called for reports of gouging to be sent to a confidential phone line and email at (866) 720-5721, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Following numerous instances of flaring tempers at long lines for gas, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Monday that every city gas station would have a police officer posted outside to assure order.