Protecting against price gouging

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) -- Lawmakers are making sure people dealing with storm clean-up don't become victims of price gouging. They say more needs to be done to protect folks from being taken advantage of.

When the big storms hits, you may need help afterward. By law, a good can not be gouged and now a group of legislators want the same thing to apply services.

It seems Connecticut endures a consistent on-slaught of severe storms, ranging from hurricanes to blizzards and the cleanup process can take time with thousands of people needing help. That's where people like Tom Iacobucci come in, to make an honest living.

"We've done everything we can to explain everything, why our price structure the way it is," said Iacobucci.

But the state Department of Consumer Protection says ethics can be questionable among some who look to provide a service after a big storm. It is the reason why legislators are introducing a bill that would control price-gauging.

"We're talking about a situation here when we are under duress, when people are reporting roof collapse and people are concerned and seniors are nervous or you have tree in your yard and your nervous, there is pressure on the consumer, they lose their ability to negotiate out of fear, and at that point in time, some people can take advantage of our consumers," said Sen. Paul Doyle of Wethersfield.

The question, however, is how does one moderate market value on a service after an emergency?

"Is that the principal of supply and demand though," asked News 8's Jamie Muro.

"Supply and demand has to have some reasonableness to it, some parameters," said Rep. David Baram of Bloomfield.

"You can't always shop around at that moment. There's no way you can prepare for the types of calamities we've seen in the past couple of weeks and months," said Howard Schwartz of CT Better Business Bureau.

The issue has bi-partisan support and if the recent weather events are any indication of our future, perhaps the time is now for such a law.

"The only way someone would run afoul of this law is if they price they are charging is unconscionable given their circumstances," said Sen. Martin Looney.

"It's all based on contract so it's all labeled out on a contract and then you work from that point," said Iacobucci.

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If you own a motel and you NORMALLY have a 35% occupancy at lets say $90 a night, if a storm hit you would probably have 90 to 100% occupancy which means more money for you....when you raise your price to 0ver $115 or more per night...THAT shouldnt be tolerated......its like gas stations raising thier pum prices on weekends JUST because its a weekend........during KATRINA bags of ice were selling for over $35.00 per bag....THATS assinine

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