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Friday, September 08, 2017

Hurricane Irma Price Gouging Reports Climb To More Than 3,000

PROSECUTE  

ORLANDO SENTINEL
By Krista Torralva
09/07/2017

More than 3,000 complaints accusing stores of price gouging related to Hurricane Irma have come into the Florida Attorney General’s Office as of Thursday morning.


Consumers called the attorney general’s Price Gouging Hotline to report price surges in water, ice, fuel, lumber and other supplies since the hotline was activated Sunday, office spokeswoman Kylie Mason said.

Thursday morning, Bondi said, “We've never seen our hotline like this in history.”

The majority of the calls have come from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.


“The worst call I got today, and this was the worst of the worst, was a 24 pack of six-ounce bottles of water, for $72 … $72,” said Martin Green, a call center operator. “That was in Jupiter today.”

The Florida price-gouging statute makes it illegal during an emergency to sell items such as gas, food, water and hotel rooms for prices that “grossly exceed” the average price during the previous 30 days. But cost increases are not necessarily price gouging. The Attorney General’s Office looks at price-gouging allegations case by case, Mason said.


Chevron, criminal oil companies gouge Florida residents attempting to flee hurricane Irma, should be held responsible and accountable for any deaths resulting

Some stores, such as The Home Depot, freeze their prices when a state of emergency is declared. On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in all of Florida’s 67 counties.

“I can’t fix it if you don’t tell me it’s broken,” Attorney General Pam Bondi said Wednesday night. She also said her office was working with Amazon to make sure third-party vendors on their site weren’t scamming customers, adding that the company had identified 12 sellers who were price-gouging on water.

Bondi said Amazon would reimburse customers.


South Florida residents evacuate - what happens to those that cannot afford to criminal oil company price gougers like Chevron?

Here are some tips as you’re scanning the aisles.

Check The Return Policy

If you’re buying large-ticket items you might return if the storm bypasses Central Florida, such as generators or large coolers, make sure you know the store’s return policy. The Better Business Bureau processed complaints in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew last year about stores that would not take back items in an attempt to make up for their own losses, said Holly Salmons, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central Florida. Stores must disclose their return policy at the time of sale and cannot refuse items.




Airlines Don’t Count

Florida’s price-gouging statute does not apply to airlines that are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Some airlines are capping fares to and from Florida. Most airlines typically offer travel vouchers for flights that were already booked and are affected.

Bolster Your Case

If you think you’ve identified price gouging, the Attorney General’s Office advises collecting as much information as possible. Keep estimates, receipts or bills. Make sure you’re making comparisons to the same product. Look at product name, size, quantity, manufacturer, item number and unit price. Check the grade, thickness and quality of lumber products. Document the per-mile charge, removal charges, per-day storage charges, and any other additional charges such as security and cleanup for services.




Call the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline

The number is 1-866-966-7226. Violations may also be reported online at http://myfloridalegal.com and by mail addressed to:

Office of the Attorney General

The Capitol, PL-01Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050.

News Service of Florida contributed to this report.



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