TAMPA - In the wake of a natural disaster, essentials such as fuel, food, ice, generators, lanterns, lumber, lodging, etc. may be in short supply.
Charging exorbitant or excessive prices for these and other necessities following a disaster is not only unethical, it's illegal.
Under sections 501.160 and 501.205 of Florida's statutes, it is illegal to charge unconscionable prices for goods or services following a declared state of emergency. Individuals or businesses found guilty of price gouging could face fines up to $1000 per violation, or up to a maximum of $25000 per day.
Report price gouging at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services price gouging page , or by calling the Division of Consumer Services at 1-800-HELP-FLA (435-7352) or 1-866-966-7226.
Report any vendors whose prices unreasonably exceed those ordinarily charged for comparable goods and services in the same market area both before and at the time of a declared emergency.
Keep good records of your transactions. If you suspect price gouging, keep your receipts and call the police immediately.
Beware when hiring contractors and repairmen. Select contractors who are well known in the community. Obtain estimates from more than one source and always ask for references. Reputable contractor will carry general liability and workers compensation insurance. Only sign contracts and work orders which completely identify the work to be performed, estimated cost of work and warranty on work. Inspect work as it is completed, especially work areas that will be hidden from view such as basement and foundation work, walls, sewers, etc.
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