A Jersey City grocery store has been issued a notice of violation and offer of settlement for $1,750 for price gouging for increasing the price of wheat flour by over 10 percent during a state of emergency, authorities said.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we made clear that we would take a tough stand on price gouging and other abuses of New Jersey consumers,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement.
“Enlisting the help of residents to report unconscionable practices works. Most businesses are following the law. For those that are not, these actions are a reminder that the penalties for violations are significant.”
Siya Cash and Carry LLC, an Indian and Asian grocery store located on Newark Avenue, received a NOV and offer of settlement on September 18th for increasing the price of Shree Ganesh wheat flour to $12.99 between at least March 7th and March 13th.
This was over 10 percent more than its regular price, which occurred at least partially after Gov. Phil Murphy (D) declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 9th, based off an investigation by the Division of Consumer Affairs.
The $1,500 is a civil penalty, with an additional $250 being tacked on due to investigative costs.
“The Division is working tirelessly during this pandemic to protect consumers from threats to their health in the form of unsubstantiated claims and predatory pricing on personal protective equipment,” added Acting DCA Director Paul R. Rodríguez.
“We are committed to reviewing and investigating every complaint to ensure that merchants operate responsibly and refrain from unscrupulous behaviors, including violating our price gouging laws, at a time when many New Jerseyans are facing significant financial hardship.”
The 10 NOVs filed in this latest round of enforcement actions carry individual penalties ranging from $500 to $12,500, depending on the severity and number of violations.
The single largest civil penalty was assessed against Performance Supply LLC, for allegedly making false and misleading statements in advertising N95 mask respirators for sale to personnel from the New York City Office of Citywide Procurement.
The DCA alleges that the company’s quote misleadingly suggested the company is an authorized dealer or distributor for 3M Company and offered to sell seven million face masks that retailed between $1.02 and $1.31 for $6.05 and $6.35 each.
Consumers who suspect consumer fraud violations, or believe that businesses have unfairly increased their prices in response to COVID-19, are encouraged to file complaints online to report specific details related to the increased prices.
Photographs of items being sold, their price, and receipts can now be uploaded to our new price gouging complaint form.