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The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders Issue Warning Against Price Gouging During a State of Emergency

The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders are issuing a reminder: price gouging during a state of emergency is illegal, and any business raising prices artificially high during an emergency could be investigated by State and County authorities and face significant penalties.

Freeholder Chairman Christopher Hudak is urging Union County consumers facing any artificially high increases during this state of emergency to take a picture of the item in question and display with its price, and take a note of the store’s name and address. Consumers are also urged to call the Union County Consumer Affairs Division at 908-654-9840 if they believed they’ve witnessed or experienced an example of price gouging.

“It is wrong for any business to take advantage of consumers, and especially during a State of Emergency,” Hudak said. “I’ve directed the County Division of Consumer Affairs to look closely at any instances of price gouging and issue the necessary penalties where warranted.”

New Jersey’s price gouging statute, N.J.S.A. 56:8-107, et. seq., makes it illegal to set excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency or for 30 days after the termination of the state of emergency.

Price increases are deemed excessive under the law if they are more than 10 percent above the price at which the good or service was sold during the normal course of business, prior to the state of emergency.  The law does allow that, if the merchant faces additional costs imposed by suppliers or legitimate logistical concerns, a price increase is considered excessive if it is more than 10 percent above the amount of markup from cost, compared with the markup normally applied.

Violations of the price-gouging law are punishable by civil penalties of up to $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for the second and subsequent offenses. Each individual sale of merchandise is considered a separate and distinct event