TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner has proposed the toughest crackdown yet on gasoline price gougers by fining repeat offenders up to $5,000 for each subsequent offense.
Money from the fines should be used to help low income seniors and the disabled pay their heating bills this winter when prices for natural gas and home heating oil are expected to skyrocket.
“We want the fines paid by greedy oil companies to help those who need it most pay for the heat which will keep them alive through the cold winter months,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer.
A first-time offender would be fined up to $2,000 for changing the selling price of gas more than once in a 24-hour period. The current penalties for violations of the law regulating the retail sale of gasoline range from a low of $50 to a high of $200 for each offense.
On Monday, Senator Turner introduced S-2810, the measure designed to curb the multiple price hikes at retail gas stations, many of which were reported to Senator Turner by concerned constituents during the last two hurricanes.
“I salute the residents throughout Mercer County who contacted my office about price gouging at service stations during the recent storms,” Senator Turner said. “This bill is a response to the concerns of constituents that some service station owners were hiking prices several times a day and then laughing themselves to the bank.”
The gasoline retail sales law for which Senator Turner wants to raise fines also requires that sales be made only at the price posted at gas pumps, forbids lotteries and the use of rebates when selling gasoline and mandates that a sign be posted at every pump.
“Something has to be done to create a deterrent for the unscrupulous few who would rather pay a small fine and break the law so they can get rich quick,” Senator Turner said.
Senator Turner said she would move to amend the initial version of her bill to include the section where funds raised through fines under the act would be designated to help pay the heating bills of low income seniors and the disabled.