By John Burton
NEWARK – The state Division of Consumer Affairs has filed action against a Long Branch landscaping business for alleged price gouging when selling generators and for illegally selling gasoline just before and after Super Storm Sandy and other offenses.
The division is charging that Stephen’s Landscaping, doing business as Stephen’s Garden Center at 138 Myrtle Ave., charged exorbitant prices for 133 various models of generators sold between Oct. 30 and Nov. 3, 2012. The business was allegedly charging between $800 and $1,500, depending on the model, resulting in a markup of about 82 to 155 percent. Stephen’s Landscaping realized approximately $176,950 in retail sales for the generators, authorities said.
The charging of exorbitant prices is prohibited under the state’s Consumer Fraud Act, according to Division of Consumer Affairs information.
Stephen’s also allegedly charged a $100 assembly fee, which consumers complaining they were required to pay, even though assembly only required putting on handles and two wheels, authorities said.
Some of the generator models were deemed unsafe and had been the subject of a product recall in 2011 for fuel leakage. Stephen’s allegedly sold 44 five-gallon cans of gas at $50 per can, when the company did not possess a fuel sale license by the state Division of Taxation as required under state law, the division charged.
As of the date of the complaint, authorities allege the company has yet to adhere to a subpoena and turned over demanded documents concerning the price of generators it sold prior to the state of emergency declaration just prior to Sandy.