Consumer Protection and Fair Housing

New Jersey’s Law Against Price Gouging is Now in Effect.

This law prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency, or for 30 days after the termination of the state of emergency. Excessive price increases are defined as price increases that are more than 10 percent higher than the price at which merchandise was sold during the normal course of business prior to the state of emergency. Consumers who believe they were targeted by a scheme related to COVID-19 or who believe that businesses have unfairly increased their prices are encouraged to file a complaint online or call 973-504-6240. Consumers should leave their name, contact information, nature of the complaint and the name and address of the business.

TIPS TO CONSUMERS CONCERNING PRICE GOUGING:

Excessive price increases are illegal during a State of Emergency.  An excessive price increase is any price that exceeds 10 percent of the price the product or service was sold during the normal course of business prior to the State of Emergency.

If you believe price gouging is occurring, contact the Division of Consumer Affairs at (973) 504-6240.  A special voicemail box has been set up to address COVID-19 related price gouging complaints and will be checked regularly, even if state offices are closed.  Please leave your name, contact information, nature of the complaint, and the name and location of the business.  Consumers should note the price of a good or service being sold, as well as the price prior to the declared State of Emergency, if known. Consumers are also encouraged to file complaints online by visiting the Division’s website.

SCAM WARNING

The Division is alerting consumers to be aware of a number of apparent scams related to COVID-19. To avoid this and some of the tactics being reported as possible scams, the Division recommends:

  • Don’t let CDC imposters into your home. Representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are not going door-to-door seeking information or conducting surveillance on COVID-19. Imposters should be reported to local authorities and the Division.
  • Don’t fall for fake cures. Beware of in-store or online advertisements for products that claim to cure or prevent COVID-19 or other similar offers. No cure or preventative medicine has been approved for sale.
  • Look out for phishing emails. Cyber criminals may take advantage of global concern and interest in COVID-19 to try to convince email recipients to open links or attachments that may direct them to malicious websites or deliver malware. Stay away from COVID-19 related information that does not come from a trusted source, to avoid exposing your personal information.
  • Keep in mind not everything online may be factual. The internet is full of information, but be mindful of its accuracy. As false reports spread regarding the origination and spread of COVID-19, rely only on trusted sources for information.
  • Be wary of unsolicited calls. Whether they are offering health insurance, including to supplement Medicare or Medicaid benefits, or a cure or treatment for COVID-19, refrain from sharing your personal information over the phone, unless you have initiated the call.
  • Avoid internet adoption scams. Scammers are falsely misrepresenting themselves as CDC employees, and asking victims to send money overseas to adopt a pet being held at a quarantine station. The CDC does not quarantine pets or would not ask for payment to bring an animal into the U.S.
  • Regarding the Stimulus checks, DO NOT give your social security or bank account information to anyone claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS will never call or email you. All communication is done by direct mail.


COVID-19 and Housing Discrimination

A housing provider cannot discriminate against you because of your actual or perceived race, national origin, religion, disability, or other LAD-protected characteristic. That includes by refusing to make repairs, or by treating you differently than a tenant of a different race or national origin in other ways.

These protections apply even if the conduct at issue stems from concerns related to COVID-19. For example, your landlord or building manager cannot refuse to make necessary repairs to your apartment because they say you are east-Asian and they are afraid of contracting COVID-19. A landlord or building manager also could not refuse to rent a property to you based on these reasons. The LAD does not prohibit a landlord from taking reasonable steps to protect the landlord or other tenants from COVID-19, but such reasonable steps would not include actions premised on stereotypes based on race or national origin. 

If you feel that you are the victim of housing discrimination, contact Candace Harper at New Jersey Citizen Action at candace@njcitizenaction.org. Hablamos Español. NJCA staff will return calls/emails within 48 hours.