Business

New Jersey Hotel Settles Superstorm Sandy Price Gouging Case

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A hotel in southern New Jersey has agreed to pay nearly $65,000 to settle allegations of price gouging in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the state attorney general’s office announced Wednesday.

State officials claimed that Amy Hotels, which did business as Econo Lodge in Egg Harbor Township, raised its room rates by as much as 150 percent to $199.99 per night after Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency in advance of Sandy making landfall. The rooms cost $79.99 per night before the declaration.

The state alleged that the company engaged in 545 instances of price gouging from Oct. 27, 2012, to Nov. 5, 2012. The state’s complaint was filed in December 2012.

Of the settlement, nearly $25,000 will go toward customer restitution. The rest consists of civil penalties and reimbursement of the state’s attorneys’ fees and investigative costs.

Since Superstorm Sandy, the state has resolved 23 of the 27 lawsuits filed against businesses that allegedly engaged in price gouging. Through these settlements, the state has obtained more than $1 million in civil penalties, consumer restitution and reimbursements for the state’s attorneys’ fees and investigative costs, according to the attorney general’s office.

Officials said they hoped the settlement would deter other business from engaging in price gouging.

“This settlement, and the many other victories we have obtained against alleged superstorm Sandy price gougers, should deter other businesses from violating this law in the future,” Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said in a statement.

The state’s price gouging law prohibits excessive price increases during a state of emergency for products used as a result of an emergency or used to protect persons or their property.

Dozens of gas stations in New York City and the surrounding suburbs found to have price gouged customers following superstorm Sandy have paid up for the illegal practice, State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced in May.

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