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Recent News:

 

 

NYC DEPARTMENT OF CONSUMER AFFAIRS AMENDS DEFAULT PRACTICE FOR PRICE GOUGING CASES

 

New York City agencies such as the Department of Consumer Affairs have been actively enforcing price gouging laws to protect consumers from outrageous profiteering on necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  But what about the businesses which are acting in good faith to find product to sell to their customers when the normal supply chains have been disrupted? Many businesses relied upon Amazon for example to re-stock necessary PPE which had a much higher acquisition cost. What may appear to be price gouging may in fact be justified due to higher costs.

In dealing with these issues, the New York City Office of Trials and Hearings conducts hearings at the municipal building at 66 John Street, New York, New York. The Summons or Notice of Violation has a return date which directs the business owner to appear for an in person hearing.  However, many were surprised on the hearing date that the OATH office at 66 John Street is closed due to COVID.  

Instead of mailing proper notice of the new remote trial procedure, businesses were being mailed a Notice of Default for non-appearance on the original return date. Even worse, the Notice of Default contained information on how to pay the fine, but little information on how to cure the “default”.

The OATH website did contain information on how to request an adjournment for those motivated enough to search online. In essence, the businesses were being deprived of their right to a hearing.  

Numerous inquiries and consultations took place with my office from those businesses wanting to sue the city for violation of their constitutional rights as well as challenging the price gouging findings.

Robert J. La Reddola contacted the NYC Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service to make their administrative attorneys  aware of the problem as well as the possible Constitutional violation.   Robert J. La Reddola then reached out directly to New York City’s Corporation Counsel’s  Administrative Law Department who then addressed the matter directly with Consumer Affairs.  Corporation Counsel reported back that NYC would update the Summons form and in the future make it clear that businesses were to challenge violations online. Further, Corporation Counsel reported that all OATH proceedings placed in default between July 1, 2020 and November 1, 2020 would automatically be issued a new hearing date with no default entered.

While it seems we live in Orwellian times with COVID, in this instance NYC and private businesses were able to reach an accord without resorting to litigation.


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