AG: 2 more LI gas stations to settle price gouging cases

A week after superstorm Sandy, Long Islanders line A week after superstorm Sandy, Long Islanders line up for gasoline in Hewlett. Two more Long Island gas stations accused of price gouging have agreed to pay settlements to New York State. The stations did not admit or deny the attorney general's findings, according to the terms of the agreement. (Nov. 5, 2012) Photo Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

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The New York State attorney general's office announced it has reached settlements with two more Long Island gas stations accused of price gouging in the wake of superstorm Sandy, officials said.

USA Gasoline -- which was located at 1080 Main St. in Holbrook but has since been sold and renamed -- agreed to pay $3,000 to the state. Pars Auto Service at 540 Sunrise Hwy. in West Islip paid $4,200. The owners did not admit or deny the attorney general's findings, according to the terms of the agreement. Both declined to comment.

The two settlements were announced along with three other settlements reached with Westchester gas station owners, bringing total penalties from the price-gouging investigations to $185,000 so far. Of the 30 service stations that have settled, 22 of them are on Long Island.

The attorney general's office is continuing to investigate dozens more throughout the state, officials said.

State law prohibits merchants from taking advantage of consumers during a natural disaster by charging an "unconscionably excessive price." A price may be considered excessive if there's a gross difference between prices charged immediately before and after an emergency and the disparity is not attributable to higher costs imposed upon the seller.

"My office will make sure that businesses that rip off New Yorkers in a time of crisis are held accountable," said Attorney General Eric. T. Schneiderman.

Kevin Beyer, president of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association, said that many of the gas station owners who settled probably had legitimate expenses to cover but agreed to pay because of the onerous cost of defending themselves and the fear of retaliation.

Beyer said owners likely had double or triple the number of people working the pumps and managing lines in the storm's immediate aftermath. Running a gas station on a generator also is more expensive, he said.

"Were there guys that gouged?" Beyer asked. "Absolutely. But I would say 99 percent of the industry did the right thing during the storm and helped out the customer. These people did not plead guilty. They settled because it was the lesser of two evils for them."

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