NY1: State Attorney General Cracks Down On Gas Price Gouging Following Sandy

May 03, 2013

May 2, 2013 : by Zack Fink

Four gas stations in New York State, including one in Brooklyn, are being sued by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for allegedly price gouging customers following Hurricane Sandy, and the attorney general has reached settlements with another 25 suspected stations. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is filing suit against four gas stations for violating New York state's price gouging statute. Settlements have also been reached with 25 other stations for fees totaling nearly $168,000.

"We will not tolerate that sort of conduct in the state of New York," Schneiderman said. "We have a price gouging law for a reason. In times of crisis, it's important for New Yorkers to come together."

In the chaotic days that followed the storm last fall, a disruption in the supply chain prevented fuel supplies from reaching the city. The result was long lines at service stations as resources dwindled.

"It's said that after the storm come the vultures, and that is exactly what happened here," said state Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan.

Some of those most affected by the price gouging were taxi drivers, who played a crucial role in keeping the city moving.

"The taxis, in those first few days after Sandy, when the subways were down, buses were down many places, the taxis and the livery cars, they were the only way for people to get around," said New York City Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky.

Officials say much of the information for the investigation and settlement came from livery cab drivers, who bore the brunt of the price gouging.

"Basically, they found that a lot of gas stations, after they waited on line for so many hours, that they were actually raising their cost in gas, and they really felt insulted," said Cira Angeles of Livery Base Owners.

By statute, gouging in New York State means disproportionately hiking gas prices during a time of crisis.

"We're not just talking about making a few extra bucks," Schneiderman said. "We're talking about people who needed gas to save lives, to run generators, to deliver medical supplies, to relocate people."

Schneiderman said his office is looking into other industries which may also have engaged in price gouging, but he declined to offer specifics. He added that it's less important how much money they settled for and more important that they send a message.