A.G. Schneiderman Warns Against Price Gouging In Southern Tier After Major Flooding

Asks Residents To Report Incidents Of Excessive Price Increases of Essential Goods and Recovery Services

Schneiderman: We Stand Ready To Enforce NYS Price Gouging Laws To Protect Consumers


BINGHAMTON - In the wake of the heavy rains that flooded portions of the Southern Tier, Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued a warning to vendors against price gouging of essential goods, and tips for residents as they attempt to recover from storms that ravaged their communities and businesses.

"Over the past two weeks, New Yorkers throughout our state have been hit by major storms, and the flooding in the Southern Tier has been particularly devastating," said Attorney General Schneiderman. “As hurricane and flood victims work to get their lives and property back in order, my office stands ready to enforce price gouging laws so that no one is taken advantage of in this difficult time. New Yorkers are strong and resilient, and our state will recover stronger than before, but consumers must be protected throughout this process.”

Before Hurricane Irene hit New York State, Attorney General Schneiderman issued an open letter to vendors throughout the state warning them of price gouging, which is the inflation of the price of necessary goods and services. In the aftermath of the storms’ impact, the Attorney General then released a guide for victims to help prevent them from becoming the target of scammers.

Today, these prevention tips have been issued to residents of the Southern Tier. The Attorney General's guide for storm victims and open letter to vendors are included below:

Recovering from the Storm: Property Cleanup and Repair
Repairing buildings and driveways, clearing downed trees — you may need to hire professionals to complete these jobs. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Check with your insurance company.

Before making any decisions, be clear about what will be covered and any steps you will need to take.

  • Ask for references, check for licenses.

Ask about local work contractors have done. Talk to the people who hired them; look at the jobs if you can. Make sure the contractor has any license required by your local government.

  • Estimates are important: get it in writing.

Ask that all estimates for work be in writing and include a description of the material to be used. Be clear that you will not pay for work done that is not agreed upon in writing. Verify that the material used is the same as described in the estimate. Make sure any changes to the estimate are in writing.

  • Use a contractor with an address you can verify.

If your contractor is “here today and gone tomorrow,” you may find it difficult to enforce the guarantee.

  • Never pay the full price up front.

Establish a payment schedule and adhere to it. Withhold final payment until the entire project is completed to your satisfaction and all required inspections and certificates of occupancy are finalized.

  • Always be sure the contractor has valid insurance.

If a worker is injured, or damage is caused on your property, you could be held liable if your contractor does not have the required insurance.

  • Check with your town or city for required permits.

Don't let a contractor work without the necessary permits. Failing to get approvals can delay your project, or prevent you from occupying a completed building.
Price Gouging
New York State law forbids those selling essential consumer goods and services — like food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights, and services such as storm clean-up and disposal — from charging excessive prices during an abnormal disruption of the market.

August 27, 2011

This open letter is addressed to anyone selling necessary consumer goods and providing essential services in the region to be affected by Hurricane Irene.
New Yorkers have and will continue to rely upon you for the items needed to prepare for the storm, as we all stock up on water, food, batteries, and other essentials. It can be a thankless responsibility and we all owe you our gratitude.
While most understand that customers are also neighbors, and would never think of taking advantage of others during such disruptive times, these circumstances always require an extra sense of vigilance and preparation
This notification should serve as a reminder to vendors and their consumers that state law prohibits price gouging at times when nature demonstrates its disruptive fury. The New York General Business law forbids those who sell essential consumer goods and services from charging excessive prices during what is clearly an abnormal disruption of the market. Those who do so will ultimately see a reduction in their profits, faced with penalties, fines and directives to set up reimbursement funds.
As Attorney General, it is my responsibility to enforce the price gouging law, and while it is my hope that I will not need to do so, my office is certainly prepared. We will review pricing data, and take such complaints filed with office seriously, as we do with any matter.
New Yorkers have always been at their best when facing adversity, and I am confident that we will live up to that standard throughout this hurricane.

Eric T. Schneiderman
New York State Attorney General

If you believe you are a victim of price gouging, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at 800-771-7755 or download a complaint form online at: www.ag.ny.gov

For a print version of these tips you can also go to the Attorney General's website: www.ag.ny.gov

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