Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued a consumer alert warning both consumers and businesses about price gouging following the severe wind storms that took place in Rochester and across western New York. Several Monroe County towns have declared states of emergency due to damaging wind storms that have prevented travel on roads and closed down multiple school districts. Power outages were reported across the county and consumers should be cognizant of possible price gouging when seeking essential goods and services.
“New Yorkers should take caution when seeking repairs in the aftermath of damaging wind storms,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “Unfortunately, scammers are more likely to prey on unsuspecting consumers during major weather events. I urge New Yorkers to report any potential price gouging or scams to my office.”
General Business Law prohibits excessive increases in prices of essential goods and services like food, water, gas, generators, batteries, and flashlights, hotel lodging, and transportation, during natural disasters or other events that disrupt the market. During and after severe weather events, these goods and services might also include tree clean up services, roof repairs and other storm-related damage. For example, some homeowners may be required to hire contractors to help with power outages and home repairs, especially given the possibility of roof collapses and building damage.
Consumers should also protect themselves when hiring contractors to perform storm-related services by considering the following:
- Shop around.Get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided for the job.
- Get it in writing.Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work needed.
- Don’t pay unreasonable advance sums.Negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job. Never pay the full price up front.
- Get references.Check with the Better Business Bureau, banks, suppliers, and neighbors. Always contact references provided to you.
- Know your rights.You have three days to cancel after signing a contract for home improvements. All cancellations must be in writing.
Attorney General Schneiderman urged New Yorkers to call his Consumer Fraud’s Bureau by calling800-771-7755 or visiting http://on.NY.gov/