What You Need to Know About Price Gouging this Hurricane Season

July 23, 2021 Criminal Defense, Florida Panhandle Arrests, News & Announcements


What is Price Gouging?

As hurricane season approaches, it is important for Floridians to watch out for themselves and their community. There are many ways we can care for one another, but a surefire way to neglect or hurt your fellow Floridians is to price gouge. This term refers to charging unconscionably high prices for commodities in short supply during emergencies and is codified by Florida Statute 501.160. The Office of the Attorney General provides that a price is presumed to be unconscionable if:

  1. “There is a gross disparity between the price charged during the state of emergency and the average price during the 30 days before the state of emergency or,
  2. The price grossly exceeds the average price the same or similar commodity was available in the trade area during the 30 days before the declaration of the state of emergency, unless the seller can justify the price by showing increases in its costs or market trends.”

What is a “Commodity”

 This term, according to the statute, refers to “any goods, services, materials, merchandise, supplies, equipment, resources, or other article of commerce, and includes, without limitation, food, water, ice, chemicals, petroleum products, and lumber necessary for consumption or use as a direct result of the emergency.” Some examples of items usually price gouged include gasoline, lanterns, food, water, ice, generators, lumber, and shelter or other lodging. Some examples of items not considered commodities under the statute would be beer, wine, and cigarettes.

How Do I Spot Price Gouging?

According to the statute, if there is a gross disparity between the regular price of the item and the price the item is currently marked for under emergency circumstances, it could be seen as price gouging. The law generally takes into account the emergency price of the item compared to the price of the item thirty (30) days before the declared emergency.

What is Included in the Price Gouging Statute?

The statute covers essential commodities that are necessary or usually consumed as a result of emergencies and lodging and storage facilities. Any such commodity rented, sold, or offered for rent or sale within the area under a declared state of emergency can be included under the statute. Additionally, the law obligates anyone selling these commodities or services to have a business tax receipt.

What Do I Do If I See Price Gouging?

If you think you see a case of price gouging, you should get as much information and evidence as possible by taking picture of signs showing the price, business receipts, price estimates, reservation prices, bills, and invoices. You should be as detailed as possible in your documentation, like including the name of the product, the amount of the product, if grade of the product if it is gasoline, the per-mile charge if it is storage or towing, etc. Then, you can report the offense and include all of the documentation to the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline at 1-866-966-7226. Reports can also be filed using the “No Scam” app or online at the Office of the Attorney General’s website. Additionally, you can mail documents to the Office of the Attorney General at their address, The Capitol, PL-1, Tallahassee, Florida, 32399-1050. Always include your contact information and the contact information of the business or individual you are reporting, and a detailed report of why you are reporting them.

Recently, the Price Gouging Hotline was used during Tropical Storm Elsa.

How Can I Avoid Price Gouging?

Price gouging can be avoided by careful planning and diligence. If you hear of a storm of event in the area that you think could cause an emergency situation, prepare an emergency kit and stock up (appropriately) on supplies, essential and for recreation.

*This article is meant purely for informational purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Pumphrey Law Firm does not practice in this area*

This article was written by Gabi D’Esposito

gabi d'esposito pumphrey law










Back to Top