State leaders this week are sending a message to those who would gouge consumers during and after Hurricane Sandy: The state will fine you if you do.
During one of his press briefings just before the hurricane hit, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said price gouging is a concern and that he had instructed officials in his administration to be on the lookout for any instances of it. He also said the state would punish, with fines, anyone who does.
Today, Attorney General George Jepsen issued a reminder to residents and retailers that state law prohibits price gouging on consumer items and energy resources during the current emergency in Connecticut.
“Residents across the state are dealing with hurricane-related power outages, property damage and other disruptions to normal living. They need to know they shouldn’t have to pay excessive prices for basic necessities,” Jepsen said. “Anyone who suspects price gouging or profiteering, should report it to my Office or to the Department of Consumer Protection for investigation under Connecticut’s unfair trade practices laws.”
Malloy declared a civil preparedness emergency on Oct. 27. While that emergency period is in effect, consumer items cannot be priced higher than they would be during the normal course of business. Violations are considered an unfair or deceptive trade practice and violators are subject to fines, Jepsen said.
Also, Connecticut is currently under statutory notice of an “abnormal market disruption” for energy resources, such as heating oil, gasoline, propane, natural gas, electricity and wood fuels, among others. The notice means that dealers are prohibited from charging unconscionably excessive prices for those energy resources. Those violations are also subject to penalties.
The market disruption period began Aug. 4 and is scheduled to expire Nov. 3, unless it is extended. The notice is posted on the attorney general’s website.
An “unconscionably excessive price” may occur when there is a gross disparity between the price during the market disruption and the price in the ordinary course of business immediately prior to the market disruption, and when the price is not attributable to additional costs.
Reports of suspected price gouging for consumer goods or unconscionably excessive pricing of gasoline or other fuels, can be emailed to email@example.com, or to the Department of Consumer Protection.