Alan Wilson Implements Price Gouging Law

Attorney general moves to protect consumers …

As Hurricane Florence stalks the east coast of the United States, South Carolina attorney general Alan Wilson is taking steps to ensure that consumers in the Palmetto State are protected from price gouging in the run-up to this potentially devastating meteorological event.

“With the possibility that Tropical Storm Florence could make landfall in South Carolina, likely as a hurricane, our people have already started making preparations,” Wilson said.  “We can expect normal price increases, but we may see businesses and individuals looking to unfairly take advantage of the situation through price gouging of food, gasoline, lodging, and other commodities as defined by the statute.  By our law, that’s a criminal violation and an unfair trade practice.”

South Carolina’s price gouging statue (S.C. code of laws § 39-5-145)  is vague, however.  It generally prohibits “unconscionable” price increases during times of disaster and remains in effect for fifteen days after a state of emergency has been lifted.  Violators can be fined up to $1,000 and imprisoned for up to thirty days.

What constitutes “unconscionable” though?  That definition open to interpretation.

If South Carolinians believe they are victims of price gouging (or see others being victimized by the practice) they are encouraged by the attorney general’s office to take the following steps …

1. Note the time, place, address, and name of the gas station or business.

2. Note the price you paid.

3. Note any prices nearby and get the same information on those stations or businesses.

4. Take pictures that identify the business, along with the price.

5. Provide your name and contact information.

Once this information has been compiled, they can email or call 803-737-3953 and leave a message.

This news outlet reported on several examples of alleged price gouging last year in the run-up to Hurricane Irma, however all of the reports we received involved out-of-state businesses.  We will be sure to keep an eye on these reports as Florence makes her approach over the coming days.

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