State officials fight price gouging during natural disasters - WFSB 3 Connecticut

State officials fight price gouging during natural disasters

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NEW HAVEN, CT (WFSB) -

In the aftermath of storms Irene, Sandy and Charlotte, greedy businesses used the disasters to capitalize and exploit everyday customers by forcing them to pay unreasonably high prices.

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> On Friday, lawmakers unveiled new measures to curb price gouging.

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> When Superstorm Sandy hit, Cindy Arel was one of the thousands forced to clean up and with massive trees and branches strewn around her yard, it wasn't easy.

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> The tree fell on top of the porch," Arel said. "We had another uprooted tree that bent our fence."

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In the days after the storm, as Arel was looking for contractors, she said she couldn't find anyone in her Manchester neighborhood that was reasonably priced.

"The prices were high, gas was high," Arel said. "Everything was high."

Lawmakers are looking to change that. In New Haven, state senators Martin Looney and Toni Harp are unveiling their expanded price gouging law. Before, the law only applied to the gouging of goods such as gas. Now, it targets contractors and smaller businesses that many times slip through the cracks.

"Heading into that season once again, it's important to make people aware there are additional protections in the law now for price gouging when it occurs," Looney said.

To determine what would constitute excessive prices, the state will look at the going rate of items or services 30 days before the storm.

Arel said she is hoping this will balance the marketplace the next time a storm rolls through.

"I guess so, it's definitely better than before," Arel said.

Just like gas stations, those caught price gouging could are subject to financial penalties in the hundreds to the thousands of dollars.

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