Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee Chair Jeffrey Dinowitz today announced passage of legislation to give citizens who fall victim to price gouging in times of emergency the ability to sue.
This bill (A.8340) provides a crucial legal option for such victims. Under current law, only the State Attorney General is empowered to bring legal action against violators of the price gouging statute. This bill would leave those powers intact, but would also permit individual victims of price gouging to sue the price gougers directly.
"In times of emergency, predatory pricing for goods such as batteries, generators, and dry goods is deplorable," said Speaker Silver (D-Manhattan). "In passing this bill, the Assembly is standing up for a consumer's right to seek compensation from those who profit unjustly from others' misfortunes."
The bill sponsor, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), said of the measure, "While the Attorney General has been rigorous and successful in his investigation of these offenses, it is clear that the threat of enforcement by the Attorney General alone is not serving as an adequate deterrent in these instances. Private citizens must be empowered to take further action."
In addition to the right of action granted to the Attorney General, this legislation gives victims of unlawful price gouging the right to sue for injunctive relief, and/or recovery of actual damages or $1000, whichever is greater. It also permits the court to award an additional penalty of up to $5,000 for a willful or knowing violation and reasonable attorney's fees.