Are Gas Stations Price Gouging? Here’s the Law in NJ
No matter what you may be hearing from other residents, and no matter how much you be paying per gallon, gas stations in New Jersey are not price gouging.
The offense doesn't even exist in the Garden State when there is no state of emergency, which means gas stations in New Jersey could technically charge as high as they'd like, to make up for the rising costs they're facing due to the crisis in Ukraine.
According to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, the state's price-gouging law prohibits "excessive price increases" during a declared state and emergency — because of a disastrous storm, for example — and for 30 days after.
So, alerting the authorities of sky-high prices will likely be a waste of your time.
"Right now, if I want to go out and raise my price to $10 a gallon, there is absolutely nothing stopping me from doing that, nor should there be," said Sal Risalvato, executive director of the New Jersey Gasoline, Convenience Store and Automotive Association. "And what you're seeing right now is the retailer passing on the costs as they receive new gasoline deliveries."
Even during a state of emergency, Risalvato noted, retailers can increase their prices if the reason is to make up for their own additional costs.
How often can stations change prices?
Consumers would have the right to complain, however, if a gas station adjusts its prices more than once during a 24-hour period. New Jersey law prohibits it, and stations face a $1,500 fine for a violation.
Risalvato said he hasn't heard from member stations looking to make more than one price hike in the same day. But, he said, because prices are going up so quickly for retailers, some may choose to "break the law" in order to make up for sudden hikes on their end.
"Keep in mind, there's another law that says you're not allowed to sell gasoline below cost," Risalvato said.