A Lyndhurst gas station is among eight New Jersey businesses that have agreed to pay penalties for alleged price gouging in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Acting N.J. Attorney General John Jay Hoffman announced last week.
In arriving at the settlements with the state, made public July 23, the businesses made no admission of liability, Hoffman’s office noted.
Pursuant to the settlement reached by the Office of the Attorney General and state Division of Consumer Affairs, S&D LLC, doing business as Exxon, 555 Riverside Ave., Lyndhurst, will make a payment of $25,000, authorities said.
The total represents $22,980.37 in civil penalties, $1,627.50 in attorneys’ fees and $392.13 in investigative costs.
In a civil lawsuit filed in November by the Christie administration, the Exxon station was accused of raising the price of regular fuel from $3.42 per gallon to $4.13 per gallon, an increase of 21%, during the state of emergency declared by the governor in late October after the superstorm devastated N.J.
The station also allegedly raised the price of supremegrade gasoline by 14%.
The Division of Consumer Affairs said it received more than a dozen consumer complaints about the station, located at the eastern side of the Lyndhurst-Nutley bridge.
The station had been shuttered for several months while its tanks are being replaced, but it is expected to reopen, The Observer learned. Exactly when, though, is not known.
The other businesses that have reached settlements with the state included four hotel operators that allegedly “excessively and unjustifiably raised room prices for consumers who needed lodging” following the hurricane, two other gas stations and a hardware store.
According to the OAG, the hotels were Homewood Suites by Hilton, Route 1, Princeton; Extended Stay America, Brunswick Pike, Princeton; Howard Johnson Inn, Black Horse Pike, Pleasantville; and A-1 Motel, West White Horse Pike, Cologne.
The other service stations were a Sunoco, 69 Wilson Ave., Newark; and Lukoil, McBride Ave., Paterson.
In addition, Village Hardware on Main St. in Chatham is being penalized for allegedly selling five-gallon gas cans at excessive prices, authorities said.
In total, the eight settlements amount to $282,844.
“The immediate aftermath of Superstorm Sandy left many New Jerseyans in a state of chaos and turmoil, which was only made worse when companies illegally gouged them for essential items such as shelter and fuel,” Hoffman said.
“We are here to protect the most vulnerable. We simply will not allow businesses to victimize vulnerable residents, who already are suffering hardships during a declared state of emergency.”
With these new settlements and the first two, announced in April, the Division of Consumer Affairs has assessed a total of $328,844.72 against various companies.
The division noted that additional price gouging settlements are expected “as a result of the investigations conducted by the Office of Consumer Protection staff in the days and weeks following Superstorm Sandy.”
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling:
1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973- 504-6200.
– Karen Zautyk