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Warnings on storm price gougers

2014-01-03 19:09:08

The storm, which dropped as much of two feet of snow in some regions, continues to torment with sub-zero wind chills. And not everyone had a plan to dig out.

"When people don't do their research up front, they can get stuck," said Paula Fleming, vice president of the Better Business Bureau office covering Eastern Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and Rhode Island

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. She said her office typically gets calls after storms of this size, when it's not uncommon for people to charge $150 for a shoveling job.

But by noon on Friday the office had logged only one call, from a woman who said her gas company said it would charge extra to fix her water heater because of the storm.

Price gouging is relatively uncommon on food staples required during a winter storm, said Randy Allen, a senior lecturer at Cornell Johnson Graduate School of management, adding that it more often occurs during cleanup.

'It can be a problem after storms, probably more so after hurricanes and floods than after a snowstorm," she said.

Still, people can get ripped off on snow and ice removal.

'It's always a good idea to get multiple estimates to get somebody to plow it ... and to go back and see what you paid for it last year," Allen said.

(Read more: Sandy's parting gift: Mold still grows in NY walls)

Gouging was a problem after Superstorm Sandy, in October 2012. In new Jersey alone, more than 2,000 complaints were reviewed by the state's consumer affairs office. Those investigations led to 27 lawsuits and $816,313 paid in civil penalties by the one-year anniversary of the storm, according to the office's Consumerwise bulletin.

—By CNBC's Amy Langfield. Follow her on Twitter at @AmyLangfield.

View Original Article: cnbc.com
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