YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A Mahwah hotel has agreed to pay $110,000 to resolve 473 Hurricane Sandy price-gouging complaints, authorities said this morning.
Comfort Suites Mahwah, operated by Tapah LLC, committed the violations “during the first 12 days of the state of emergency, when desperate families had to flee their homes and seek new shelter,” Acting state Attorney General John J. Hoffman said.
To date, the state Division of Consumer Affairs and the Division of Law have resolved 22 of the 27 lawsuits filed against businesses accused of price gouging during the emergency.
Including the Mahwah settlement, state authorities have secured more than $1 million in civil penalties, consumer restitution, and the reimbursement of fees and investigative costs, as a result.
“By now, the businesses that sought to take advantage of this natural disaster have learned that we are relentless in protecting consumers and enforcing the law,” Division of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Steve Lee said. “[T]hese actions should serve as a strong deterrent to price gougers in the future.”
Under its agreement, Comfort Suites Mahwah on Route 17 will pay $17,449 in consumer restitution, $47,600 in civil penalties, and $44,941 in reimbursement of the state’s attorneys’ fees and investigative costs.
An additional $35,000 in civil penalties is suspended but will become payable if the business violates terms of the settlement within one year, Hoffman said.
New Jersey’s price gouging statute prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency, for merchandise used as a direct result of an emergency or used to protect the life, health, safety, or comfort of persons or their property.
The law defines excessive price increases as more than 10% above the price at which the merchandise was sold during the normal course of business immediately prior to the state of emergency.
If a merchant incurs additional costs during the state of emergency, prices may not exceed 10% above the markup from cost applied in the usual course of business prior to the state of emergency.
The probe was headed by Investigator Patrick Mullan of the DCA’s Office of Consumer Protection and the court action handled by Deputy Attorney General/Assistant Section Chief General Patricia Schiripo and Deputy Attorney General Cathleen O’Donnell of the Division of Law’s Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section.
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