Price gouging complaints spark investigation

Posted at 9:22 PM, Nov 22, 2014
and last updated 2015-11-17 21:22:55-05

New York State’s Attorney General has already had to issue a cease and desist order to one business that was allegedly price gouging residents in an area hard hit by the snowstorms.

Eric Schneiderman says his office will pursue legal action against any business that is raising prices to take advantage during this historic snow emergency in Western New York and is actively investigating several complaints against other businesses allegedly engaging in illegal price increases.

One of the complaints Schneiderman says his office received is of a store raising the price of milk by 28 percent – far more than allowed by law – and snow removal companies charging three times the amount of their normal service to plow driveways.

“While the response to the tragic storm in Western New York has been overwhelmingly positive, a small handful of shady businesses are looking to use this moment of crisis to make a quick buck,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.  “Few things are more reprehensible than exploiting a tragedy to prey on your neighbors.  My commitment to the people of Western New York is to fight every day to crack down on scammers and fraudsters trying to take advantage of consumers who have already been victimized by this storm.”

If you know of a business inflating the price of necessary goods and services like food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights, call 800-771-7755 or visit this website and file a complaint with the state Attorney General.

Schneiderman offers the following tips to residents who need to hire a contractor to perform storm-related services:

  • Shop around. Get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided for the job.
  • Get it in writing. Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work needed.
  • Don't pay unreasonable advance sums. Negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job. Never pay the full price up front.
  • Get references. Check with the Better Business Bureau, banks, suppliers, and neighbors. Always contact references provided to you.
  • Know your rights. You have three days to cancel after signing a contract for home improvements. All cancellations must be in writing.