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TRENTON, N.J. -- Three N.J. gas station owners are charged with illegally raising prices multiple times in a single day after Hurricane Irene swept through the state late last month, according to a news release issued by the state Attorney General's Office. Such acts are illegal under the state's Motor Fuels law and could result in civil penalties of $1,500 each.
The State Office of Weights and Measures (OWM) conducted investigations at each of the stations on suspicion of price-going, which is defined as charging more than 10 percent over what the price was prior to a state of emergency, before issuing the summonses. While inspectors did not accuse the stations of price-going, employees allegedly changed fuel prices more than once in a 24-hour period.
Summonses were issued to the following stations:
Delta, 2042 South Broad St., Trenton
Lukoil 298, Kings Highway (Rt. 41), Cherry Hill
Citgo 1402, Route 47, Rio Grande
"Attempting to illegally profit during someone's time of need following a natural disaster is shameful," stated Attorney General Paula T. Dow. "Law enforcement agencies at all levels across New Jersey remain vigilant during the ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricane Irene and will take action against those who target storm victims."
Consumer complaints reportedly triggered the investigations of the Delta and Lukoil stations, while a routine OWM inspection of the Citgo station brought its price changes to light.
"Although the charged conduct doesn't constitute price gouging under state law, it's no less reprehensible," stated Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs Thomas R. Calcagni. "New Jersey residents suffered enough as a result of Hurricane Irene, and the actions of these gas stations, if true, add insult to injury. We continue to send our investigators into the field, to alert local officials and storm victims to the issues we are finding, and to follow up on each and every storm-related complaint filed with us."
The Division has received 103 consumer complaints of illegal pricing following Hurricane Irene to date; 74 have so far been determined to be unfounded, according to the news release. Investigations into the remaining 26 are ongoing.
The three announced violations are the first substantial ones announced since the hurricane. Deputy Attorney General Neil Magnus will represent the OWM in these cases.
Director Calcagni also commended State Weights and Measures Acting Superintendent Robert J. Campanelli for his leadership in overseeing the inspections.
Consumers who suspect any form of scamming or customer abuse can file a complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs at www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov or by calling 800-242-5846 within N.J. or 973-504-6200 from out of state.