There have been 30 complaints of price gouging filed with the Department of Consumer Protection in the week since Hurricane Sandy hit Connecticut, a spokesperson told NBC Connecticut on Monday.
Of those complaints, 23 were about unfair gas and fuel pricing. Four complaints were filed regarding price gouging by hotels and two for overpriced tree removal services. One consumer complained about high-priced power generators that have been in demand after power outages hit many areas of the state.
“Be forewarned if you try to take advantage of Connecticut consumers by engaging in price gouging, you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Governor Dannel Malloy warned prior to Hurricane Sandy.
“[Residents] need to know they shouldn’t have to pay excessive prices for basic necessities,” said Attorney General George Jepsen.
As of now, Connecticut law covers price gouging of materials during states of emergency, but not services, like contractors and tree removal services.
Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Bill Rubenstein urges consumers take time to make careful, well-researched decisions.
“Just because you had water and wind damage doesn’t mean that you should throw caution to the wind,” Rubenstein told NBC Connecticut.
“You need to do all the normal things you’d otherwise do, which is check references, make sure the contractor is capable and competent to do the job and has done the job for others,” Rubenstein said. He also suggested consumers should always make sure the contract holds the proper licensing and sign a contract. Do not pay in full until the job is done.
State senator Paul Doyle (D-Wethersfield) has authored legislation to prevent price gouging of services.
“Even though it’s a time of desperation you should check and see what the normal pricing is. Go online and get a price of it. If you see a general number at a different spot of $40 and all of a sudden they’re charging you triple that, that is a clear case of gouging and that’s prohibited,” Doyle said.
Jepsen advises consumers to report any instances they see.
“Anyone who suspects price gouging or profiteering should report it to my Office or to the Department of Consumer Protection for investigation under Connecticut’s unfair trade practices laws,” Jepsen said.
“Irresponsible behavior is reprehensible and those few businesses that engage in it will be held to account,” Rubenstein warned.
Cases of price gouging can be reported to the Department of Consumer Protection’s hotline at 860-713-6100.