NEWARK, N.J. -- New Jersey attorney general Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the State Division of Consumer Affairs has announced a settlement with a Lukoil gas station in Branchville, N.J., arising from alleged price gouging during the state of emergency declared in August 2011 as a result of Tropical Storm Irene.
Thakur Gas LLC, which does business as Lukoil, has paid $20,000 to the state under the terms of the settlement. The AG suspended an additional $30,000 penalty that can be imposed if the station violates the state's Consumer Fraud Act or the terms of the settlement during the next three years.
The State Division of Law, on behalf of the Division of Consumer Affairs, filed suit against Thakur Gas last December, following an investigation that resulted from complaints filed by the gas stations' customers about alleged price increases immediately following the storm.
"Excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency constitute price gouging and are illegal. We will not allow consumers to be gouged for the very items they need to recover after a disaster strikes," Chiesa said.
Governor Chris Christie on Aug. 25, 2011, declared a state of emergency throughout New Jersey. State law deems price increases excessive if they are more than 10% higher than the price at which a good or service was sold in the usual course of business prior to the state of emergency. If additional costs are imposed by suppliers, prices are considered excessive if a seller's markup from cost increases by more than 10% compared to that seller's markup immediately prior to the state of emergency.
"All businesses and consumers should be aware of our price gouging law, especially now, as we're in the peak period for tropical storms and hurricanes impacting New Jersey," said Eric T. Kanefsky, acting director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. "New Jersey residents pull together and help each other during such difficult times and we have no tolerance for any business that attempts to profit itself by gouging consumers during a declared state of emergency."
In agreeing to the settlement, Thakur Gas made no admission of liability.
The Division's Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation.