What NJ Gas Stations Can and Can’t Do When Raising Prices After Tax Hike
Most service stations across New Jersey are charging 23 cents a gallon more for gas, which is the amount of the gas tax increase that went into effect Tuesday.
Some drivers, however, have reported seeing gas stations increasing their prices more than 23 cents.
According to Steve Lee, the director of the state Division of Consumer Affairs, this is not considered price gouging.
“The definition of price gouging is very specific: It only refers to price increases during a declared state of emergency such as Superstorm Sandy or a tropical storm,” he said.
Nevertheless, he says the Division is monitoring the situation because “any time there is possible misrepresentation and increased prices, it may be an unconscionable commercial practice under the Consumer Fraud Act.”
A gas station can charge what they charge for gas but they can’t lie about the reasons for it. If there are lies or misrepresentations, that’s when we get involved," he said.
The state Consumer Fraud Act defines consumer fraud as any unconscionable commercial practice, or deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise or misrepresentation in connection with the sale or offer of goods such as gasoline.
Lee explained this means gas stations are able to set their prices higher or lower as they see fit. “However, if a gas station raises its price above and beyond its gas tax but they’re claiming it’s because of the gas tax or it’s part of the gas tax, that could be a possible unconscionable commercial practice.”
He stressed it’s important for consumers to compare gas prices, see who is charging what, and keep in mind what gas prices were at the beginning of the week, before the gas tax increase took effect.
“If consumers are seeing prices that are much higher than that, and they feel like they’re being told that that price increase is part of the whole gas tax, they should report it to us at the Division of Consumer Affairs,” he said.
“They can go on our website and file an online complaint at njconsumeraffairs.gov, and we’ll investigate and look into it. What we’re trying to focus on is to just eliminate fraud against consumers.”
“We want to make sure consumers have as much information as possible, and 100 percent accurate information."