NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) – Eight New Jersey businesses accused of hiking the cost of hotel rooms, gas prices and gas cans following superstorm Sandy have reached settlements with the state, authorities said Tuesday.
Four hotel operators, three gas stations and a hardware store will pay more than $280,000 in settlements, officials from the Division of Consumer Affairs said. More than $10,500 will be used to reimburse 185 consumers who were affected by the hikes.
Two Princeton hotels, one in Pleasantville and another in Cologne will pay consumers plus civil penalties, attorney’s fees and investigative costs. Authorities said the hotels hiked room rates by up to $100 per night, and each hotel had instances of price gouging ranging from 50 and 100 times following the declaration of a state emergency.
“They charged exorbitant rates, often twice as much as they normally would charge for a room,” acting Attorney General John Hoffman told WCBS 880’s Jim Smith.
Similar agreements were reached with gas stations in Lyndhurst, Paterson and Newark that each received dozens of consumer complaints. Authorities said the Paterson gas station hiked the price of regular fuel by more than $2 per gallon.
A hardware store in Chatham agreed to pay $20,000 for allegedly hiking the price of five-gallon gas cans.
Hoffman said the large settlements send a clear message.
“We’ll find you and we’ll hold accountable. The penalties are very severe,” said Hoffman.
None of the businesses admitted any liability.
Overall, the Division of Consumer Affairs has assessed $328,844.72 against companies that allegedly hiked the price of their merchandise following the declaration of a state emergency.
In all, 24 businesses were sued by the state last year for gouging after Sandy. More than 2,000 consumer complaints about price gouging were filed in the days after the storm hit.
Two other gas stations agreed to pay a combined $46,000 in April to settle claims they gouged consumers following Sandy.
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