Consumer protection inspectors are out checking local gas stations today to ensure that motorists are not being ripped off at the pumps in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
"Our inspectors are out in the field and they are working dillegently to protect the consumer," said Terry D. Grosselfinger, Rockland County's director of Consumer Protection as he was checking the Costco gas station in Nanuet.
At that station, there was a 90-minute wait for gas. Grosselfinger said there were no problems at the Costco station, and that it was selling fuel at normal prices and the employees were well-organized.
Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection, at the direction of County Executive Robert P. Astorino, has also sent inspectors to all gasoline stations to assess supplies and to make sure there is no price gouging.
If there is any gouging, officials said the information will be turned over the the state Attorney General's Office for possible prosecution.
"Taking advantage of consumers in need and raising prices without any justification will be investigated by the department," Astorino said.
John Gaccione, acting director of Consumer Protection in Westchester, said some stations are reporting long lines and other stations that have supplies are still without electrical power so they cannot pump gas.
"We are hopeful this is a temporary situation, but in the meantime we suggest that motorists conserve gas," said Gaccione.
Grosselfinger said his office received complaints of possible gouging in Airmont and Valley Cottage with prices rumored at about $5.50 per gallon, but inspections and a check of sales records did not find any evidence of gouging. However, he said one gas station in Valley Cottage — a BP station — was cited for having improper singage at the pump, with the sale price on the pump not matching the large price display.
Here are issues consumers face today:
- Gas stations closed because they don't have power.
- Lines to get fuel at stations that are open.
- Cash only: Grosselfinger said many gas stations are only accepting cash because their computer systems and credit card systems are not functioning yet.
- Supply uncertainty: Gas stations owners are reporting they are uncertain when their next fuel deliveries will be coming in because of delays as major fueld depots such as Bayone, NJ.
To protect yourself, Grosselfinger suggests that you get a receipt for your gas purchase. If you can't get a receipt, he says to use your smart phone to take a photo of the price and fueld amount display on the pump.
If you suspect price gouging, report it to:
In Westchester: 914 995 2155
In Rockland: 845-708-7600.