NJ Consumer Affairs: Price-Gouging Was Largest 2012 Complaint Category

NEWARK, N.J. -

Consumers filed 2,164 complaints last year about alleged price-gouging, making such illegal pricing the single largest category of complaints received by the State Division of Consumer Affairs.

The surge in price gouging complaints followed the State of Emergency declared on October 27 for Superstorm Sandy.  Consumers filed complaints in the days and weeks afterwards.  New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the Division of Consumer Affairs to date have filed 24 lawsuits against businesses for alleged price gouging.

“We alerted consumers to look out for price gouging before Superstorm Sandy hit and encouraged them to contact us if they saw prices jump more than 10 percent,” Attorney General Chiesa said.  “Our top priority immediately following Sandy was investigating these complaints and we confirmed that a relatively small number of businesses allegedly did gouge consumers.”

Monday’s announcement coincided with the beginning of National Consumer Protection Week, which runs this year from March 3 through March 9. The State Division of Consumer Affairs noted consumer price-gouging complaints related to Sandy — 2,164 in only two months — were the top complaint category in 2012. Last year’s second-highest complaint category was Home Improvements, which generated 1,528 consumer complaints during the entire 12 months. Attorney General Chiesa noted that home improvement-related complaints are expected to increase throughout the long post-Sandy recovery period.

The Division received 14,416 consumer complaints in 2012.

“The Consumer Affairs staff in 2012 demonstrated its unique ability to quickly shift resources to address the influx of price gouging complaints and take swift action to protect consumers when needed most,” said Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs.  “