Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th Senate District), Chairman of the Senate’s Consumer Protection Committee, and Senator Carl L. Marcellino (5th Senate District) announced today that they are sponsoring legislation along with the Attorney General to create tougher penalties for gas stations that engage in price gouging.
"With gas prices now over $3 per gallon, the state must do all that it can to protect consumers from being scammed. By raising the maximum fines for this crime, we would better protect consumers by removing any financial incentive for businesses to illegally inflate their prices," said Senator Fuschillo.
"At times of national, state or local disasters it is un-American to take advantage of a tragedy. Whether it be 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, this legislation puts teeth in New York state’s laws to combat the unconscionable crime of price gouging," said Senator Marcellino.
The legislation being sponsored by Senators Fuschillo and Marcellino would allow the courts to impose a monetary penalty per violation plus three times the amount of illegal profits for price gouging. Currently, the maximum penalty for price gouging is a one time $10,000 fine, regardless of the profits exacted or the number of consumers defrauded.
Senator Fuschillo pointed to the events in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a prime example for why stronger laws are needed. After the Hurricane, local gas prices suddenly skyrocketed. In response to this, Senator Fuschillo called on the Attorney General to launch a price gouging investigation. After conducting an investigation, the Attorney General fined two local retailers, the USA Gas station on Merrick Road in Freeport and the Exxon gas station on Sunrise Highway in Merrick, along with 13 other gas stations from across the state, for price gouging consumers. According to the Attorney General’s office, these stations all increased their markup on the gas (the difference between the cost of the gas and its sale price) by 25 percent or more after the hurricane.
"We’ve already seen that there were businesses willing to use the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina as an excuse to over charge their customers just to increase profits. These new protections are necessary to help protect consumers from this crime," Senator Fuschillo added.
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