Cracking down on gas price gouging

Lynbrook station among those fined by New York State


A Lynbrook gas station is among more than two dozen in New York state that have been accused of excessively raising prices in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

The station, Broadway Auto Care, at 351 Scranton Ave., will pay the state a $2,500 fine, after settlements were announced on May 2 by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The fines for the offending stations range from $1,500 to nearly $20,000.

After the hurricane, gasoline was in short supply because many stations were without electricity for days. Even when power was restored, deliveries couldn’t keep up with the demand, as stations were besieged by long lines of cars and people with gas cans. In the weeks after the storm, Schneiderman began investigating stations that were suspected of price gouging.

New York’s Price Gouging Law prohibits merchants from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an “unconscionably excessive price” during natural disasters. The law states that a price may be considered excessive if there is a “gross disparity” between the prices charged immediately before and after the emergency, and that disparity is not attributable to higher costs imposed on the seller.

Several local stations were found to have raised prices excessively. The largest fine — $18,250 — went to East End Marketing, which operates an Xtra Plus station at 2670 North Jerusalem Ave. in North Bellmore. Before the storm, the difference between the wholesale and pump prices at the station was $1.08; afterward, the difference was $1.53, according to Schneiderman.

The BP station owned by King of Sunrise Inc., at 700 W. Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream, charged $4.59 for a gallon of regular gas after the storm. According to Schneiderman, the difference between the station’s wholesale and pump prices was 95 cents before the storm, and $1.59 afterward, a 67 percent increase. King of Sunrise will pay a $12,000 fine.

A spokeswoman for Schneiderman said that the fines were based on the volume of gasoline stations sold at the inflated prices.

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