HARRISBURG — Attorney General Josh Shapiro today alerted Pennsylvania consumers and businesses about price gouging protections after a major winter storm deposited more than a foot of snow in many parts of Pennsylvania overnight and this morning.
“As the snow subsides, we want Pennsylvanians to be aware of price-gouging and the laws in place to protect them from unfair price increases during emergencies,” Shapiro said. “If you think a vendor is price gouging, report it to our office’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.”
Gov. Tom Wolf’s declaration of a disaster emergency yesterday triggered protections under state law for consumers and businesses from price gouging.
Under state law governing a disaster emergency, companies and vendors are prohibited from charging a price for consumer goods or services that exceeds 20 percent of the average price those goods or services were sold for in the seven days preceding the date of the declaration.
Shapiro encouraged consumers with questions or concerns about price gouging to call OAG’s Bureau of Consumer Protection hotline at 800-441-2555 or go to www.attorneygeneral.com to file a complaint.
“Whether it’s a snowplow operator charging you too much to clear your driveway, or a store over-charging you too much for a snow blower, if you think you’ve been price-gouged, our agents are here to protect you and enforce the law,” Shapiro said. “Call my office and tell us what’s happening in your community. We will not let you be taken advantage of because of this storm.”
The price-gouging law gives the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection authority to investigate complaints and allows for penalties of up to $10,000 per violation, along with restitution.
Shapiro also reminded consumers and businesses to be wary of scam artists out at work as soon as the storm subsides. Here are some basic tips:
- Home improvement contractors who do more than $5,000 worth of business per year in PA are required to register with the Bureau of Consumer Protection. You can verify a registration by calling 888-520-6680 or visiting this link.
- Contractors are required to provide consumers with specific information before proceeding with any project, including:
- The contractor’s registration number, to be included in all contracts, estimates and ads.
- A written contract for any project costing more than $500.
- Information about the consumers’ three-day right to cancel a home improvement contract.
- Details about the materials and labor included in the project.
- Total sales price.
- A specific start and end date for the project.
Shapiro encouraged consumers to be wary of individuals who approach you with stories of “just being in the neighborhood” or other unsolicited offers that seem “too good to be true.”