NEWARK, NJ – A Paterson supermarket is among a dozen merchants fined Monday for violating consumer protection orders enacted by Governor Phil Murphy in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

According to Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal, Food Fair La Gran Marqueta, 946-956 Market Street, was penalized $5,250 for selling or offering to sell boxes of Cheerios for between $7.49 and $9.19 per box, prices more than ten percent higher than the prices at which Cheerios Giant Size was offered for in the same store prior to Murphy's declaration of a state of emergency.

The governor drew a hard line against suspected price gougers in the early days of the pandemic declaring at a press briefing that "there’s a special place in hell for the people who take advantage of this health crisis.” Murphy made the comment after Attorney General Gurbir Grewal reported on March 24 that there had been 1,400 price-gouging complaints spanning 900 businesses reported to the Department of Consumer Affairs.

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“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we made clear that we would take a tough stand on price gouging and other abuses of New Jersey consumers,” said Grewal in a statement Monday. “Enlisting the help of residents to report unconscionable practices works. Most businesses are following the law. For those that are not, these actions are a reminder that the penalties for violations are significant.” 

New Jersey’s price-gouging law, which took effect on March 9 upon Governor Murphy’s declaration of a state of emergency, prohibits excessive price increases during a declared state of emergency and for 30 days after its termination. A price increase is considered excessive if the new price is more than 10 percent higher than the price charged during the normal course of business prior to the state of emergency, and the increased price is not attributable to additional costs imposed by the seller's supplier or additional costs of providing the product or service during the state of emergency. 

“The Division is working tirelessly during this pandemic to protect consumers from threats to their health in the form of unsubstantiated claims and predatory pricing on personal protective equipment,” said Acting Director Paul R. Rodríguez. “We are committed to reviewing and investigating every complaint to ensure that merchants operate responsibly and refrain from unscrupulous behaviors, including violating our price gouging laws, at a time when many New Jerseyans are facing significant financial hardship.”  

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