The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY)

Attorney general warning about price gouging in Henri’s aftermath

- Troy Record The Office of the New York State Attorney General urges any New Yorker who believes they have been the victim of price gouging to file a complaint online or call 800771-7755.

ALBANY, N.Y. >> New York State Attorney General Letitia James issued a consumer alert, warning both consumers and businesses to be on alert for potential price gouging of essential items and services both during and in the aftermath of Hurricane Henri.

“New Yorkers should be on the lookout for fraudsters who use natural disasters to take advantage of consumers,” James said. “It is illegal for retailers or vendors to charge grossly excessive prices for essential goods and services during a state of emergency, and that includes those who try to exploit New Yorkers in the aftermath of Hurricane Henri. I urge anyone who believes they may have been a victim of price gouging to contact my office immediatel­y.”

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. An 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 New York state vendors, retailers, and suppliers, and includes essential goods and services that are vital and necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers or the general public, such as food, water, gasoline, generators, batteries, flashlight­s, hotel lodging, and transporta­tion services. Contract services for storm-related damage, both during and after a natural disaster, are covered by the state’s price gouging law as well.

On Aug. 22, the federal government issued a federal disaster declaratio­n for 26 counties in New York, including Albany, Bronx, Broome, Chenango, Columbia, Delaware, Dutchess, Greene, Kings, Montgomery, Nassau, New York, Orange, Otsego, Putnam, Queens, Rensselaer, Richmond, Rockland, Saratoga, Schenectad­y, Schoharie, Suffolk, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westcheste­r 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 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 upfront.

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.

 ?? New York State Attorney General Letitia James THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE ??
New York State Attorney General Letitia James THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE

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