The New Jersey Attorney Generals Office and the Division of Consumer Affairs have completed and resolved the investigation of APK Towing of Toms River who was being investigated by the state agency’s for alleged price gouging in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The press release marking the closed investigation was issued on Jan, 7, 2013.
The statement reads that after the Division learned of APK’s practices, an initial agreement was reached with APK on November 20, 2012 whereby more than 70 vehicles and watercraft were returned to their registered owners without any charge. However, some owners had already paid APK significant sums to retrieve their vehicles before the State reached that agreement. In addition, an estimated 50 unclaimed vehicles and watercraft in APK Towing’s possession were never claimed. It is believed that these vehicles were not retrieved because they were destroyed beyond repair and many were covered by consumers’ insurance coverage. The final settlement resolves these outstanding issues.
The owners of unclaimed vehicles or watercraft still in APK Towing’s possession will receive notification that their vehicles or watercraft will be sold if not reclaimed within 21 days of receiving notice. If not claimed, the State will scrap the vehicles and use the proceeds to reimburse any owners who previously paid APK to retrieve their vehicles prior to the November 20 agreement.
“We did not want these consumers, already victims of Hurricane Sandy, to be victimized again,” Attorney General Chiesa said. “They did nothing wrong and Division of Consumer Affairs investigators worked diligently to resolve this matter and allow these storm survivors to move forward without this unnecessary burden.”
APK Towing also agreed to adhere to the state’s Consumer Fraud Act and Predatory Towing Prevention Act under terms of the Consent Order. Among other things, APK Towing agreed not to offer for sale or sell merchandise at an excessive price increase during a state of emergency or within thirty (30) days after the termination of the state of emergency. The company also was assessed $15,669 for the state’s investigative costs. The $15,669 payment is suspended and will be vacated after one (1) year, but will become payable if APK Towing fails to comply with the settlement terms.
“We heard from consumers who had to pay hundreds of dollars to get their towed cars out of storage. We shared their outrage and we’re happy that we could help bring this matter towards a final resolution that gets these individuals their money back,” said Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, particularly as a result of Hurricane Sandy, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.