Bill to Protect Consumers from Post Disaster Price Gouging Passes Assembly

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by Phil Stilton

TRENTON-After Superstorm Sandy, allegations over price gouging on items ranging from food to emergency essentials was prevalent around the county by unscrupulous business owners trying to cash in on the disaster.

If a bill passed by the assembly is signed into law by Governor Chris Christie, it was place a prohibition on post-disaster price gouging.

“The protections we put in place will deter businesses from taking advantage of consumers during a natural disaster by spiking prices for necessities, such as gasoline and groceries,” Senator Oroho (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris) said. “This bill will ensure business won’t be put at a disadvantage because of the inflexibility of the current protocol, and still protect consumers from price gouging tactics that threaten their welfare and safety.”

The legislation, S-2321, amends existing law to provide that it would be unlawful for any person to sell any product at an excessive price for a 30-day period following the declaration of a state of emergency. It also allows for the Governor to extend the period during which the price gouging prohibition remains in force.

Under current law, excessive price increases are prohibited for a period that extends to 30 days after the termination of a state of emergency. An “excessive price” is defined as more than 10 percent above the price of the item or service as offered immediately before the state of emergency.

“Every disaster is different, and a rigid, 30-day period might not work for every one of them,” Senator Oroho said. “We need to tailor these protections to fit each unique situation that arises. I think this will help us strike a balance between protecting consumers during a natural disaster and supporting businesses once the emergency is over.”