With prices at the pump already on the rise, New York Attorney General Letitia James is cautioning about potential gasoline price gouging in the wake of the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline.
James issued an alert concerning price gougers following the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline, which serves the eastern half of the country and was forced to temporarily shut down several pipelines after being attacked.
According to James, after the hack on a computer system used to control the Colonial Pipeline, consumers on the East Coast have reportedly engaged in panic-buying of fuel, with some sellers increasing their prices in an attempt to profit from the increased demand.
New York law prohibits sellers of fuel and other vital and necessary goods from excessively increasing their prices during an abnormal market disruption, including disruptions caused by energy shortages, James said.
During such times, sellers may be allowed to increase prices to cover their own cost increases, but it is illegal for them to unconscionably raise prices simply to profit from increased consumer 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,” James said. “To be clear, the price gouging of fuel in New York state will not be tolerated for a moment.
“If our office sees profiteers take advantage of consumers by boosting prices to excess levels, we will not hesitate to take legal action.
“Last year, the state granted our office additional authority to stop those seeking to unlawfully profit off an emergency, so we will use every tool at our disposal to stop illegal actors and secure relief for consumers who have been overcharged for gasoline.”
Anyone who sees price gouging has been instructed to report it to James’ office with the specific price hike, 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, she noted.
“The Office of the Attorney General also 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,” officials said.
“The AG also advises consumers that it is not price-gouging for gas stations to limit the amount of fuel they sell to individual consumers.
"Reducing the quantities of sales can help avoid a small number of consumers from hoarding fuel and can, instead, ensure that there is still fuel available (even in smaller quantities) for other consumers.”
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