On the Lookout for Price Gouging

State officials, Patch editors, looking for examples of businesses increasing the price of hot commodities in wake of Irene.

When Irene struck Connecticut with a fury - knocking out power to more than  three-quarters of a million people - many in the state looked to help their neighbors as much as they could.

They offered supplies, their homes, their money…whatever people needed to get by.

But there are those we commonly refer to as opportunists who look to make a buck off of people even in the most trying times. Many of them are the store owners who jack up the price of goods that are hard to come by because they know you have no choice in most cases but to pay them.

These people are known as "price gougers," and they have caught the attention of state officials who are looking to crack down on this illegal activity. (See news release below). And even before the storm, Patch was prepared for the possibility of gouging.

Editors in the Southwest Connecticut Patch towns went to stores in the region before and after the storm scoping out prices in an attempt to catch those who try to take advantage of the people in our towns.

So far, we’re glad to report, we’ve found no obvious signs of gouging.

However, people all over the state are calling into radio stations complaining about gouging, especially for items on online sites such as Craig’s List.

If you feel like you’ve been a victim of price gouging, or if you see prices that are considered high, please let us know. We will look into it.

You can e-mail your concerns to Oxford Patch editor Paul Singley at paul.singley@patch.com. He will look into all concerns.

Also, the news release below about state officials looking into gouging has information about what to do and who to call if you suspect gouging.

Thank you, 

Patch SW Connecticut team

From the office of Attorney General George Jepsen

HARTFORD, August 26 -- With Hurricane Irene set to strike Connecticut this weekend, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen is announcing an imminent abnormal market disruption in energy resources under Connecticut General Statutes Section 42-234, putting wholesalers, retailers and consumers on notice that charging unconscionably excessive prices for gasoline, heating fuels and other energy resources is prohibited. 

Under the notice, posted today on the Attorney General’s website atwww.ct.gov/ag/site/default.asp , the abnormal market disruption period began at 1 p.m. today and runs through midnight, Wednesday Aug. 31, unless otherwise amended.

 “Consumers need to be aware that in times of anticipated market disruption on energy products, some unscrupulous market players may seek to extract excessive profits from consumers,” Attorney General Jepsen said. “If anyone suspects excessive profiteering, they should report it as described below. My office and the Department of Consumer Protection will monitor the market and consumer complaints, will act accordingly to halt any such practices, and seek penalties as needed against violators.”

 “During this life-threatening emergency, we expect everyone to act responsibly in order to protect themselves, their families, their homes, and their businesses,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said. “To that end, we will examine very closely any reported instances of unconscionably excessive pricing, and will act swiftly and determinedly to rectify the matter.”

Anyone wishing to report what they believe to be profiteering or unconscionably excessive pricing on gasoline or other fuels during the abnormal market period is urged to contact the Department of Consumer Protection by emailing food.standards@ct.gov.  Please include the business name, its location, and the prices you observed.  Persons may also call the Department’s Hotline at 1-800-842 2649 during business hours and at 860-713-6160 after hours and on the weekend.

Commissioner Rubenstein encouraged consumers to be prudent in the amount of gasoline they purchase during this time period.

“Everyone will benefit if consumers don’t rush out to buy all the fuel they can,” Rubenstein said. “By alleviating the stress on supply, the market should remain more stable.”

Attorney General Jepsen and Commissioner Rubenstein thanked the Independent Connecticut Petroleum Association for drawing attention to this issue.



CONTACT: Susan E. Kinsman, Office of the Attorney General; susan.kinsman@ct.gov;860-808-5324; 860-478-9581 (cell)

 Claudette Carveth, Department of Consumer Protection; claudette.carveth@ct.gov; 860-713-6022 

Craig Zac September 06, 2011 at 03:03 PM
I found some at the oil change / car wash in southbury while getting my oil changed on friday... after looking in Lowes, HD and Oxford Paint....
Craig Zac September 06, 2011 at 03:06 PM
seriously??? what nuts!! (lol.. though in a different setting i think its kinda funny..the xmass tree, not the kids.. ) the $5.00 cell phone charge is just kinda sick.. but hey, its also like kids selling disgusting cups of leomonaide for $.50 a cup... they dont have a health dept liscense or anything.. gross! lol,lol,lol....
g September 06, 2011 at 04:39 PM
Craig, I used to think alleged price gouging was bad. Price gouging as used in this case, is people charging more for a commodity because demand has spiked due to an anticipated catastrophic event. Without price gouging, we get empty shelves as those who get there first will tend to hoard. My point is if we are going to go after price gouging, shouldn't we go after consumers who hoard? Somehow it's smart to hoard before a storm, but bad to charge market rates for commodities? Check this out - http://abcnews.go.com/2020/Stossel/story?id=1954352&page=1 "If sellers don't raise prices, supplies vanish. Anxious buyers line up and often buy more than they need, just in case. Those not at the front of the line may get nothing. "More people want to buy it than there is stuff available. … What do you do? How do you solve that problem? And how do you find out who should get those scarce items," Roberts asked. The answer is you allow people to raise prices -- even to "gouge" -- because only people who REALLY need them will cough up the money. Gouging also encourages greedy entrepreneurs to rush in with much-needed goods, or to look for more supplies."
Craig Zac September 06, 2011 at 05:13 PM
Thanks for the link and info "g" I guess that is the other side of the coin... But I think the stores in this case should enforce a one per customer rule (or how ever many they want) im sure running out of something because they just plain sold out is better then raising the price for everyone just because a few will buy alot more than they need...either to sell later at inflated prices or just because they feel they need more.. or letting the hoarders buy more than 1 or 2. I couldnt get a snow blower last winter because they were being sold so fast... i had to wait till the end of the season to finally get one at Home depot. They also had a load of snow shovels come in and I actually saw a guy buy a whole case... something like 30 or 40 shovels...lol bet he got stuck as it never snowed again after that.. I havent used my snow blower yet either except on my lawn where i needed a path to the wood pile. lol So, i guess theres two ways to look at it, raise prices to discourage hoarding or dont raise peices and have shelves empty quickly due to hoarding.. maybe a one per customer thing would work.. I heard of stores also selling numbered tickets for when the gennys came in.. you go with your number and pick up the genny...
Craig Zac September 06, 2011 at 05:15 PM
one more thing... this reminds me of when you used to be able to sleep over night at the boxoffice to the colliseum in New Haven, be first in line to buy concert tix and theyd say.. 5 ticket maximum.. to try and discourage scalping...lol never worked though, youd think you were getting front row seats but you be getting like 4th or 5 th row... whered all the 1st, 2nd, and third row seats go? lol


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