Bracing For Matthew: An avalanche of price gouging complaints

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – Because Florida is under a State of Emergency, it is illegal for businesses to raise prices and overcharge for goods that are needed as a direct result of this emergency. And as Mike Vasilinda tells us, many businesses haven’t gotten the message.

Food, water, ice, gas, lumber and even hotel rooms and rental cars are covered by the state law that prohibits price gouging. Rhoda Poore asked one caller: “Do you know what they normally sell it there for sir?”

But many businesses haven’t gotten the message. Hotline operator Jack Hagadorn could barely take time to talk, “Non stop. Yes sir, they are continuing coming in as fast as we can answer.”

The calls are coming so fast, 20 people can’t keep up with the volume.

Q:”That was a gas complaint from Jacksonville?” we asked

“Yes, sir”.

Operator Guy Thompson says the worst case was a gas station. “Most recently we had gas had gone up a dollar a gallon.”

The calls are coming from across the state, said Chris Provenzano. We asked about his most recent complaint.

“The folks were charging ten dollars for a twelve pack of water.”

Q: “Seems high?”

“Well. we’re going to have investigators go out and take a look at it.”

The Attorney General’s spokesman, Whitney ray, says every complaint is being investigated.

“Any business that intentionally inflates the prices because a hurricane is coming, they saw a lot of need. So those are the things we’ll be working out right now and probably in the days and weeks following the storm,” says Ray.

Investigators will first try to get a merchant to return prices to normal, Ray says, but if that fails, big fines could be on the horizon.

“Penalties can be a thousand dollars per violation, up to twenty-five thousand dollars within a twenty-four hour period,” he said. “The most complaints today are gas, water, and ice followed closely by hotel rooms and rental cars.”

And while those are the hot items now, the law covers anything people need in an emergency right down to the tarp to cover a hole in your roof.

How to file a price gouging complaint

The number to call is 1-866-9-NoScam. you can also file a complaint online at  The Attorney General’s website says the best advice to avoid being overcharged is to stock up before the storm is barreling down on the state.


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