Price Gouging Earns NJ Store $90K in Fines in a Day, Mayor Says
JERSEY CITY — A discount store is facing a very expensive penalty of $90,000 in fines for price gouging amid the state's novel coronavirus threat.
Each of 9 tickets includes a $10,000 fine for the first offense, according to Jersey City Prosecutor Jake Hudnut.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop shared video Thursday on Twitter, as police and the prosecutor looked into reports of gouging on rubbing alcohol, disinfectant wipes and disinfectant spray.
When asked which store received the hefty fines, Hudnut said he understands that residents and business owners are "in this together" and that the city is not looking to vilify anyone. He said the idea is to stay safe and operate within the law.
The Jersey Journal reported the store in question was 99 Cent Dream on Newark Avenue.
Hudnut said he was out again with law enforcement Friday, investigating reports of ratcheted prices on similar items, including hand sanitizer, but no further tickets were issued.
The State bans the increasing of prices on products for sale to consumers by more than 10% compared to what the price of the same product was immediately prior to the state of emergency.
The prosecutor also said the only exception "is if an increase is caused by additional costs imposed by the seller’s supplier or other costs of providing the good or service during the state of emergency."
But even in those cases, Hudnut said the price may not increase more than 10% above those additional costs (plus the original profit margin immediately prior to the state of emergency).
He said over the weekend, he received emails about cases of drinking water at some local gas stations being priced upwards of $15 to $20, which would be among first points of business Monday to check out.
Anyone who believes they've seen or been victim to a case of price gouging can report it to the state Division of Consumer Affairs hotline at 1-800-242-5846.