A Lukoil gas station in Branchville (Sussex County, NJ) is accused of price gouging during the state of emergency that was declared in August 2011 as a result of Tropical Storm Irene. Today, State Attorney General Jeff Chiesa and the State Division of Consumer Affairs announced a settlement in the case.

Two weeks ago, Lukoil gas stations all over NJ protested the company's pricing strategies by raising gas prices to $8 a gallon and beyond for one day. (Facebook)

Thakur Gas, LLC has paid $20,000 to the state under the terms of the settlement. An additional $30,000 is suspended but can be imposed if the station violates the state’s Consumer Fraud Act or the terms of the settlement during the next three years.

The State Division of Law, on behalf of the Division of Consumer Affairs, filed suit against Thakur Gas last December, following an investigation that resulted from complaints filed by the gas stations’ customers about alleged price increases immediately following the storm.

Excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency constitute price gouging and are illegal,” says Chiesa. “We will not allow consumers to be gouged for the very items they need to recover after a disaster strikes.

On August 25, 201, Governor Chris Christie declared a state of emergency throughout New Jersey. State law deems price increases excessive if they are more than 10 percent higher than the price at which a good or service was sold in the usual course of business prior to the state of emergency. If additional costs are imposed by suppliers, prices are considered excessive if a seller’s markup from cost increases by more than 10 percent compared to that seller’s markup immediately prior to the state of emergency.

“All businesses and consumers should be aware of our price gouging law, especially now, as we’re in the peak period for tropical storms and hurricanes impacting New Jersey,” says Eric Kanefsky, acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. “New Jersey residents pull together and help each other during such difficult times and we have no tolerance for any business that attempts to profit itself by gouging consumers during a declared state of emergency.”

In agreeing to the settlement, Thakur Gas made no admission of liability.