NEW YORK (NEWS10) – New York Attorney General Letitia James issued an alert Thursday morning to New Yorkers concerning potential gasoline price gouging. This comes after the interruption of a major fuel pipeline serving the eastern half of the United States.
The current disruption occurred after computer hackers illegally hacked into the computer system that is used to control the Colonial Pipeline, which transports fuel to numerous locations, including the New York City area. The hack caused a temporary shutdown of the pipeline, creating the threat of a fuel shortage that could potentially affect hundreds of millions of Americans.
In response, numerous consumers on the East Coast have reportedly engaged in panic-buying of fuel, and some sellers appear to have increased their prices in an attempt to profit from the increased demand.
“As New Yorkers continue to suffer the economic impact of the COVID-19 public health crisis, the last thing their wallets can afford is the price gouging of fuel from those seeking to unconscionably take advantage of another crisis,” said Attorney General James.
New York law prohibits sellers of fuel and other vital and necessary goods from excessively increasing their prices during an abnormal market disruption. During such times, sellers may be allowed to increase prices to cover their own cost increases, but it is illegal for them to raise prices with the goal of profiting from increased consumer demand.
The OAG (Office of the Attorney General) advises consumers to buy only as much fuel as they need and not to stock up out of fear of a potential future shortage. As such, panic buying may reduce the supply of fuel available for other consumers and could encourage sellers to engage in illegal price gouging.
When reporting price gouging to the OAG, consumers should report the specific increased prices, the dates and places that they saw the increased prices, and the types of fuel being sold. Consumers should also provide copies of their sales receipts and photos of the advertised prices, if available. Gas stations that appear to have engaged in price gouging must have evidence to justify their price increases.