ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- The price of gas varies widely by location and business. At one location, regular gas can be $4.19 a gallon, and $4.39 at another. But what is considered too high or price gouging?

AG Letitia James warned New Yorkers about gas price gouging in a press release on Mar. 3. The next day, she announced she was launching a process to determine if corporations were using the COVID-19 pandemic to unfairly mark up prices. She said between corporate profits and the impact of higher prices on everything from groceries to pet food, something “doesn’t add up.”

“The rising costs of essentials and basic household items has had a real impact on working families,” James said. “Throughout the pandemic, hardworking New Yorkers have been struggling to make ends meet, but big corporations have been celebrating record-breaking profits.”

There are different gas suppliers, which makes the price of gas fluctuate by store or gas station. Price gouging is defined in the state as a price that is “unconscionably excessive,” and in New York it’s illegal. With nothing else to go by, how can people tell if the price they are paying is too much?

There is no number or percentage guide to help New Yorkers determine if a price has been gouged within the written legislation. “Whether a price is unconscionably excessive is a question of law for the court,” the law reads in Section 396-R of New York Article 26.

“For most states, it’s a gray area and poorly defined,” said Head of Petroleum Analysis at GasBuddy, Patrick De Haan. “My definition varies, but from what I’m seeing, 99.9% of stations are simply passing along their higher cost.”

Price gouging may be considered prices 20% over the average, according to the United States Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG). The average price of a gallon of regular gas on the east coast was $4.161 on Feb. 28, based on information from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) information.

Tack on 20% to the average price of gas from the EIA and it brings the price per gallon to $4.993. However, that’s not to say a price over a lower percentage doesn’t meet the state’s definition of price gouging.

Instances of price gouging can be reported to the AG’s office online. To report price gouging, the AG said people will need to provide:

  • Specific increased prices, dates, places that they saw the increased prices, and the types of fuel being sold
  • Copies of sales receipts and if possible, photos of the advertised prices

“Both consumers and businesses should take the necessary precautions to address the ongoing risks,” said AG Letitia James. “I encourage anyone who has experienced issues concerning the price gouging of fuel or threats to cybersecurity to contact my office.”