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Contact: Adam Joseph
860-240-8641

March 2, 2011

Bill Tackles Price Gouging for Snow Removal, Flood Abatement and Other Vital Services

Bipartisan legislation will prohibit exploitation of seniors, consumers during weather emergencies

Senate Majority Leader Martin Looney (D-New Haven) and Senator Paul Doyle (D-Wethersfield) joined a bipartisan group of officials today to announce plans for legislation to prohibit price gouging in the market for snow removal, flood abatement and other services vital for the health, safety and welfare of consumers in times of emergency.

“This winter’s extreme weather conditions demonstrated a real need for us to expand the scope of Connecticut’s price gouging laws. The real dangers and fear of roof collapse must not be exploited by unscrupulous contractors to gouge desperate homeowners,” said Senator Looney. “Currently, services are only covered in our price gouging laws when the Governor declares a formal supply emergency or energy emergency—a situation so extreme that it was not triggered during this record-breaking winter. Our proposal will extend the price gouging ban to times of emergency regardless of whether the governor has issued a formal declaration—not just during storms but potentially in their aftermath, when dangers may remain,” said Senator Looney.

“Record-breaking snowfall this year put a great deal of pressure on roofs all across New England, and an equal amount of pressure on homeowners to have the snow removed quickly,” said Senator Doyle. “Unfortunately, some individuals sought to take advantage of this emergency situation, and particularly to take advantage of seniors who could not remove the snow themselves. This legislation will prevent price gouging for snow removal and other vital services, so we are well prepared for the next big storm.”

The Democratic senators are joined in their support for the legislation by Senator Kevin D. Witkos (R-Canton) and Attorney General George Jepsen.

“As you know, this winter the news has been filled with many stories about weather and roof collapses,” said Senator Witkos. “Folks fearing the same may happen to their homes and businesses have acted quickly to hire contractors to remove the built-up snow on their roof-lines. Unfortunately, some contractors have taken advantage of individuals’ attempt to keep their property safe, and it is now necessary for the state to step in and ensure no one is unfairly charged for snow and ice removal,” said Senator Witkos.

“Making the law more clear will benefit consumers during difficult times. My office is ready to help enforce any new protections,” said Attorney General Jepsen.

“I have heard of a wide range of prices quoted to homeowners for snow removal, and I am not at all surprised that price gouging has been going on,” said Ed Dypa, Middletown resident and Chair of Middletown’s Senior Services Commission. “There is a need for this problem to be addressed. Prompt, honest snow removal is a necessity. Heavy snow causes leaky roofs, which can result in water damage to ceilings and carpets, further increasing costs for seniors.”

Extreme amounts of snow this winter weighed down roofs all across Connecticut, causing several buildings to collapse. Snow removal service from the roof of a typical home often costs between a few to several hundred dollars. Yet in some cases, unscrupulous contractors are charging much higher prices. A Berlin woman was asked recently for $3,650 to clear the roof of her 2,000 square foot home.

The proposed legislation, Raised SB 1089, would prohibit charging an “unconscionably excessive price” during extreme weather and other emergencies for all goods and services necessary for the health, welfare or safety of individuals and families, including but not limited to snow removal and flood abatement.

Whether a price is “unconscionably excessive” would be determined in court, taking into account the common price of the relevant goods and services prior to the emergency, and the amount charged by other providers to consumers in the same area during that emergency.

Under current law, 42-230 of the Connecticut General Statutes prohibits an increase in the price of any good sold in an area under a formal disaster emergency declaration by the governor or President of the United States. 42-232 does apply to price gouging for some services, but only when the governor has resorted to the extreme declaration of a supply emergency or energy emergency, which also allows for rationing and carries potential criminal penalties.

The proposed legislation would extend the ban on price gouging to cover services as well as goods, and would also apply during, and potentially in the aftermath of, less extreme weather and other types of emergencies that do not necessarily result in a formal declaration by the governor or president.

The proposed bill is inspired by a similar law in the state of New York, which imposes a penalty of $10,000 for comparable price gouging during emergency conditions.

 

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