NEW YORK — State Attorney General Letitia James has issued an alert warning consumers and businesses to be on the lookout for potential pricing gouging in the aftermath of Halloween flooding.
New York State’s price gouging law prohibits merchants from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an “unconscionably excessive” price during an “abnormal disruption of the market” or a declared state of emergency. This excessive price would be represented by a gross disparity between the price of the product immediately prior to and after such an occurrence.
The price gouging law covers vendors, retailers, and suppliers, and includes essential goods and services — such as food, water, gasoline, generators, batteries, flashlights, hotel lodging, and transportation services. Contract services for storm-related damage are covered as well.
On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in Cayuga, Chautauqua, Cortland, Dutchess, Erie, Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Saratoga, and Warren Counties. Consumers should protect themselves when hiring contractors to perform storm-related services by considering the following tips:
• Shop around: Get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided.
• Get it in writing: Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the job.
• 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.
The Office of the New York State Attorney General urges any New Yorker who believes they have been the victim of price gouging to call 800-771-7755 to file a complaint.
They can also file a complaint online at https://ag.ny.gov/price-gouging-complaint-form.
• Get references: Check with the Better Business Bureau, banks, suppliers, and neighbors and always contact references.
• Know your rights: You have three days to cancel after signing a contract for home improvements. All cancellations must be in writing.