TRENTON – Three leading Senate Democrats have introduced legislation to crack down on gasoline price gouging by imposing stiff fines on greedy service station owners and the unscrupulous wholesalers who jack up their gas prices multiple times daily.
“We have to send a clear message that heartless profiteers should be fined heavily for their greed,” said Senator Nicholas J. Sacco, D-Hudson and Bergen, the Chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
Senator Sacco and Senator Joseph Coniglio, D-Bergen, Chairman of the Senate State Government Committe, have introduced a bill, S-2769, to increase the fine from $50 to up to $1,500 for a first offense by a retail gasoline seller of changing the posted price more than once in a 24-hour period. Subsequent offenses would carry fines of up to $3,000 each.
“In the midst of the last two hurricanes, we’ve seen the ripoff tendencies of a few bad apples who seemingly hiked their retail gas prices by the hour,” said Senator Coniglio. “These fine levels should be a deterrent to such greedy practices.”
Senator Sacco and Senator Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, also introduced legislation, S-2768, to make it illegal for the first time for gasoline wholesalers to increase their “tank wagon” price of motor fuels sold to retailers more than once in a 24-hour period.
“Some of the suspected gas gougers at the retail level were claiming they were forced to increase their prices multiple times to keep pace with the increases imposed on them by wholesalers,” said Senator Sacco. “Well, what’s fair for the retailer should be fair for the wholesaler.”
Penalties for first time offenders under the Sacco-Vitale proposal would bring guilty wholesalers fines of up to $5,000. Subsequent offenses would carry fines for wholesalers of up to $10,000 for each occurrence.
“Gasoline price gouging is an unconscionable offense against drivers, especially for seniors and others on fixed income who need their cars to get to the store, the pharmacy and to their doctor’s offices,” said Senator Vitale.