Asbury Park Hotel Charged with Superstorm Price Gouging
The Berkeley Hotel in Asbury Park, a Galloway lodging inn and a Morris County gas station are the subjects of state lawsuits alleging price-gouging in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
Investigators say they documented more than 460 instances of inflated rates at the Berkeley and at the Studio Inn and Suites in Galloway from October 27 through the second week of November.
Simillar lawsuits have so far been leveled against 15 hotels and 12 service stations. Two gas stations have settled for a collective $46,000.
Operators of the Berkeley are accused of raising room rates as high as 117 percent. The Studio Inn's operators allegedly jacked up prices as much as 283 percent.
C&M Exxon in East Hanover is accused of hiking the price of regular as much as 26.3 percent, and the price of premium as much as 34.2 percent.
State authorities contend that none faced financial hardships that would have justified the increases during a declared state of emergency.
Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa says his office is taking a zero-tolerance approach to profiteering off storm victims.
“We continue to investigate the more than 2,000 consumer complaints that were received during the storm’s immediate aftermath, even as we watch for possible new types of post-disaster fraud.”
New Jersey’s price gouging law prohibits excessive price hikes during states of emergency and 30 days after they end. The law defines "excessive" as more than 10 percent higher than normal prices.
Merchants faced with higher costs tied to the nature of the emergency are not permitted to mark up items more than 10 percent above normal.
Chiesa's office also filed for enforcement of subpoenas against three other companies, already accused of price gouging by consumers, which have so far not submitted data sought by the State.
People who encounter or are victimized by superstorm-related fraud can bring issues to New Jersey's Statewide Sandy Fraud Working Group. The multi-discipline group addresses home repair and insurance fraud, bogus charities and more.
Reach the Working Group at 855-SANDY39 (855-726-3939) or www.StopSandyFraud.org.