The Comfort Suites on Route 17 in Mahwah is one of ten New Jersey businesses being sued by the state for allegedly price gouging its rates during Hurricane Sandy. Governor Chris Christie, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa, and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs issued a joint release Wednesday announcing its second round of Sandy price gouging lawsuits.
According to the release, the Comfort Suites, owned by Tapah, LLC, allegedly raised rates on its rooms by as much as 208% during and after the hurricane. The hotel allegedly overcharged customers on 473 occasions during the state of emergency, in at least one instance charging $219 for a room that cost $71.20 before the storm, the release said.
“Safe, comfortable lodging is not a luxury when people have been displaced from their homes during a state of emergency,” Chiesa said in the release. “It is a basic necessity. We have no tolerance for businesses seeking to unlawfully profit from the desperation of others during this unprecedented storm.”
A call Wednesday afternoon to Choice Hotels, which franchises hotels across the country, including the Comfort Suites, has not yet been returned. A call to Tapah, LLC was also unanswered.
The state also filed suits Thursday against six other hotels and three gas stations on price gouging allegations. Those businesses included four hotels owned by Ratan Hospitality – the Howard Johnson Express locations in Clifton and Parsippany, Holiday Inn Express in North Bergen and Ramada Inn in East Orange.
Two North Jersey gas stations – the Jenny’s Shell Station in Bloomfield and Delta in North Bergen, are also being sued for allegedly raising prices on gas 22 and 21 percent, respectively, during the State of Emergency.
The suits filed Thursday are in addition to eight already filed against NJ businesses.
A business that raises its prices by any more than 10 percent during a State of Emergency is considered to be engaging in price gouging, which is illegal in New Jersey.
Violators of the law can face penalties of up to $10,000 for a first offense and up to $20,000 for each subsequent offense, the release said. Each individual sale counts as one offense, so sales made during Sandy could lead to significant penalties for any company found guilty of the charges, the release said.
According to the Department of Consumer Affairs Acting Director Kanefsky, the state is investigating over 2,000 complaints of price gouging made by consumers since Gov. Christie declared a state of emergency on Oct. 27. He called that amount an “unprecedented number in such a short period of time.” He said the Division of Consumer Affairs is continuing to investigate all complaints lodged against NJ businesses.
Residents who believe they were victims of price gouging during the Hurricane Sandy state of emergency can report it to the DCA via its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846.