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Politics

State Attorney General Declares Price Gouging Emergency In Dutchess

Attorney General Letitia James
Attorney General Letitia James Photo Credit: Contributed

Dutchess County is among 12 counties in New York to be warned of price gouging following the Halloween storm that caused expansive flooding in the region.

New York Attorney General Letitia James issued a consumer alert, warning homeowners and businesses to be on high-alert for potential price gouging after the Thursday, Oct. 31, storm that brought heavy rains and whipping winds to upstate New York.

On Friday, Nov. 1, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency in 12 counties that saw widespread power outages and road closures, including Dutchess.

Other counties included in James’ warning are: Cayuga, Chautauqua, Cortland, Erie, Essex, Hamilton, Herkimer, Montgomery, Oneida, Saratoga, and Warren.

According to James, New York State’s price gouging law “prohibits merchants from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an ‘unconscionably excessive’ price during an ‘abnormal disruption of the market’ or a declared state of emergency.

“This excessive price would be represented by a gross disparity between the price of the product immediately prior to and after such an occurrence. The price-gouging law covers New York State vendors, retailers, and suppliers, and includes essential goods and services — such as food, water, gasoline, generators, batteries, flashlights, hotel lodging, and transportation services.”

“We have absolutely zero tolerance for anyone who preys on New York homeowners and small businesses, especially in the wake of weather-related emergencies, like last week’s extreme flooding,” Cuomo said. ​“I am urging all New Yorkers to be on the alert for contractors who may be charging unfair prices for storm-related repairs and to immediately report these bad actors to the state.”

James said that consumers can protect themselves when hiring contractors to perform storm-related services:

  • Shop around – Get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided for the job;
  • Get it in writing – Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work needed;
  • Don't pay unreasonable advance sums – Negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job. Never pay the full price up front;
  • Get references – Check with the Better Business Bureau, banks, suppliers, and neighbors. Always contact references provided to you;
  • Know your rights – You have three days to cancel after signing a contract for home improvements. All cancellations must be in writing.

“New Yorkers should remain wary of dishonest fraudsters who use natural disasters as an excuse to illegally line their pockets,” James said. “We will hold accountable those who seek to exploit times of emergency. I urge anyone who believes they may have been a victim of price gouging to contact my office immediately, so we can hold these swindlers accountable.”

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