BUFFALO, NY - A viewer sent the following e-mail to our Tip Line, regarding their concern over the price parkers were paying Tuesday at a lot on West Mohawk street downtown.
"The Pay-2-Park on Mohawk, close to the Convention Center, is charging consumers $20 per day to park today. This is likely because the convention center is hosting the NYS Bar Exam today and tomorrow. That price is more than double the normal rate of $8 and twice the highest daily rate of any lot downtown. The gouging is also affecting potential jurors, who have to find parking for a jury selection happening in federal court today. --Jeff D, Buffalo.
According to its own web site, the normal rate the company charges for a day's parking at what it refers to as "Lot #23" is $8.00 per day.
We were also able to view the receipts from those who parked there this morning, which indicated that they were charged $20..., which is in fact more than double the normal amount. It also appeared that the rate was restored to the normal amount after 10am.
Pay-2-Park did not return phone calls from Two On Your Side seeking comment, so we can't confirm whether the rate was raised because of the bar exam going on nearby as the viewer speculates.
Several of those taking the exam told us they were outraged by having to pay $20.00, while several others indicated that because they were unaware of what the normal rate was, they did not find it offensive.
This is not the first time we have visited this issue and this company.
In December 2010, we reported on Pay-2-Park charging $50 for spaces at a lot near the First Niagara Center for prime match ups at the World Junior's Hockey Tournament.
At that time, the city of Buffalo said it had no authority to regulate prices charged by private lots.
Still, the occurrence of more than two years ago prompted Mayor Brown to call on the State Attorney General to investigate whether it amounted to price gouging.
Buffalo Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer told WGRZ-TV late Tuesday afternoon he was uncertain of the eventual outcome of the inquiry, but promised to check into it and let us know.
Helfer re-confirmed that the city has no authority over what a privately owned parking lot might charge customers.
He did say, however, that if a lot is on city owned land and is leased by the city to a private operator the maximum allowed for special event parking is $15.
Our calls to State Attorney General's press office on Tuesday were not returned.
Was Pay-2-Park gouging customers on Tuesday?
It would appear not, under the applicable state law.
New York State's Price Gouging Law (General Business Law § 396-r) prohibits merchants from taking unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services for an "unconscionably excessive price" during an "abnormal disruption of the market" (such as a natural or manmade disaster). As well, the law applies to "consumer goods and services vital and necessary for the health, safety and welfare of consumers".
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bill Boyer. Follow Dave on Twitter: @DaveMcKinley2