The Florida Attorney General’s Office has received more than 2,400 reports of suspected price gouging related to Hurricane Dorian.
More than 650 of them came in through the agency’s new No Scam app, where consumers can upload pictures and receipts.
People can also call the agency’s price gouging hotline at 866-9-NO-SCAM.
It's illegal for businesses to excessively hike the prices of essentials like food, water, hotel rooms, ice, gas -- anything needed in a declared emergency.
Florida law defines price gouging as "grossly" exceeding the average price during the 30 days before a state of emergency is declared. Only a fraction of price gouging reports during past hurricanes have led to legal action.
Out of the 14,000 reports of suspected price gouging during Hurricane Irma, about 7,600 were sent to the Consumer Protection Division for further review. Out of all those, the agency pursued more than 1,000 for possible legal action.
“Every contact that is made with our office doesn’t always constitute price gouging – so, that’s number one. But we never want to discourage anyone from letting us know about a situation because it could, in fact, be price gouging and we need to know that so we can take action,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody during this interview with 10News.
A lot of the reports that come into the hotline don’t have enough information for investigators, according to Florida Attorney General’s Office Spokesperson Whitney Ray.
He said some people leave out addresses, the name of the store, or the item’s brand and size. He also said some reports are duplicates or people who called the wrong agency about a hurricane-related problem.
Ray said the agency’s priority is solving these problems in real-time by going out to businesses and getting them to lower prices immediately; suing a business months later doesn’t help people who need resources right away.
The A.G.’s Office is already doing that for Dorian.
Its Rapid Response Team has visited about 150 businesses suspected of price gouging so far and has gotten numerous stores to reduce prices and give refunds, according to spokesperson Kylie Mason.
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