Consumer Price Gouging

Erie County consumers who believe they are experiencing price gouging during the Coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic should report all complaints, using this complaint form, to the Buffalo Regional New York State Attorney General’s Office. (During this COVID-19 outbreak, this applies to necessary consumer goods such as hand sanitizers and other disinfecting products, toilet paper and basic food items. Certain products and services may not be covered by New York State's price gouging law.)

Before filing your complaint please have the following information available:

The Product or service you are complaining about

• Brand and Product size
• Current Price (Date it was observed at the higher price)
• Previous Price, if known
• Seller name and address (phone number or website if known)
• Please have a copy of the receipt to submit with the complaint. Photos showing the pricing can also be uploaded.
• If you want to reach the Attorney General’s Department of Consumer Fraud you may do so by calling 716-853-8404 or email them at consumerfrauds.buffalo@ag.ny.gov

If you have a stimulus check issue that you wish to file a complaint about that can be done through this complaint form with the Buffalo Attorney General’s Office.

 

Price Gouging 101:

New York's price gouging statute, section 396-r of the New York General Business Law, which prohibits unconscionably excessive pricing of necessary consumer goods and services during any abnormal disruption of the market. During this COVID-19 outbreak, this applies to necessary consumer goods such as hand sanitizers and other disinfecting products, toilet paper and basic food items. 

Examples include:

    • Cleaning products
    • Diagnostic products and services
    • Disinfectants (wipes, liquids, sprays)
    • Gloves
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Medicines
    • Paper towels
    • Rubbing alcohol
    • Soap
    • Tissues

It is illegal to increase prices of these types of goods and services by 10% or more.

The New York State Attorney General’s price gouging complaint form advises: Certain products and services may not be covered by New York State's price gouging law. Because the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Surgeon General do not recommend face masks as necessary for the general public, we do not believe that the state price gouging law currently applies to the sale of face masks to consumers.

If you are unsure if the item in question would qualify as a “necessary consumer goods” reach out to the Buffalo New York Regional Attorney General’s Office, (716)853-8404, or via email, consumerfrauds.buffalo@ag.ny.gov.

Our office is here to help as well call or email (716)858-6169, consumerprotection@erie.gov for further assistance.

 

Gas Prices: Supply and Demand:

Under price gouging 101, in order for an item to qualify for price gouging, the item must be necessary consumer goods such as hand sanitizers and other disinfecting products, toilet paper and basic food items.
Currently there is consumer buzz about gas prices and why WNY prices seem to be higher than that of the national average.

Elizabeth Carey, Director of Public Relations & Corporate Communications for AAA Western and Central New York recently advised “It's a supply and demand issue.” Check current gas prices on AAA’s website.

“Currently, the U.S. average for a gallon of gas is $1.77, while the New York state average is $2.17, and the average price in Buffalo is $2.22. New York prices are always higher than the national average based on taxes, the lack of a refinery in the state, and our location. Gas stations do set their own prices and that is determined by supply and demand. Local gas stations are often slower to lower prices when oil prices drop, and they are also slower to raise prices when they trend upward. Normally at this time of year, gas prices are on the rise as demand increases with spring travel and gas stations switch over to summer blend fuel, which is more expensive. AAA has no impact on gas prices, but as an automobile club, we do share prices to educate motorists. We do expect local prices to continue to drop in coming weeks.”

There is currently a surplus of fuel which stations are still sitting on and as with more people working from home the demand for gas has also decreased. As the reserve supply diminishes, consumers should see a continued decrease at the pumps. Locations where consumers are seeing the lowest prices, have already sold the reserve supplies and as such the consumers are experiencing the reduced price at the pump.

The price decrease is anticipated to continue until the demand increases once businesses start the process of reopening and the demand for fuel increases.

If you are interested in seeing how much of the price you pay at the pump goes directly for taxes, check out this gas tax calculator from the Erie County Comptroller’s Office.

For further assistance, feel free to reach out to our office, call or email (716)858-6169, consumerprotection@erie.gov. If you wish to file a complaint do so via this form.