The New York Attorney General has issued a warning for consumers and businesses about price gouging, as conditions worsen with the upcoming storm.
Attorney General Schneiderman reminds consumers that General Business Law prohibits excessive increases in prices of essential goods and services like food, water, gas, generators, batteries, and flashlights, hotel lodging, and transportation, during natural disasters or other events that disrupt the market.
During and after severe winter weather events, these goods and services might also include snow plowing, snow removal from roofs, shovels and other snow removal equipment, salt, and contract services for storm-related damage.
The price gouging law covers New York State vendors, retailers and suppliers, including but not limited to supermarkets, gas stations, hardware stores, bodegas, delis, and taxi and livery cab drivers.
Schneiderman also warns consumers that the aftermath of winter storms may necessitate the hiring of contractors to assist with additional snow removal and home repairs. Reports of roof collapses and the possibility of flooding from warming temperatures are two areas of significant concern.
He warns consumers to protect themselves when hiring contractors to perform storm-related services by considering the following:
- 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.
Any New Yorkers who believe they have been the victim of price gouging should call the Attorney General’s office at 800-771-7755 or visit www.ag.ny.gov/price-gouging-complaint-form to file a complaint.