TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—As Tropical Storm Karen moves toward the Gulf Coast and in response to the declared state of emergency in multiple Florida counties, Attorney General Pam Bondi today activated the price gouging hotline. Florida law prohibits extreme increases in the price of essential commodities, such as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment, needed as a direct result of an officially declared emergency. Anyone who suspects price gouging during this declared state of emergency should report it to the Attorney General’s Office by calling 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226). The price gouging law only applies within the areas of the declared state of emergency, which are: Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Gulf, Calhoun, Jackson, Franklin, Liberty, Gadsden, Wakulla, Leon, Jefferson, Madison, and Taylor counties
“Anyone who suspects price gouging in affected areas during this declared state of emergency should contact my office,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi, “Consumers should be vigilant and can help protect themselves from price gouging by obtaining multiple estimates for construction jobs, carefully checking all payment terms and other provisions of contracts, and only doing business with reputable contractors and businessmen.”
Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period. In addition to the civil penalties for price gouging, state law criminalizes the sale of goods and services to the public without possession of an occupational license. Violators of the law can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
Specifically, Florida Statute 501.160 states that during a state of emergency, it is unlawful to sell, lease, offer to sell, or offer for lease essential commodities, dwelling units, or self-storage facilities for an amount that grossly exceeds the average price for that commodity during the 30 days before the declaration of the state of emergency, unless the seller can justifying the price by showing increases in its prices or market trends.
For more information on price gouging, please click here.