Price gouging: How to protect yourself and report it

TAMPA, Fla. - In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, several reports of price gouging popped up in areas of Texas most affected by the storm. With the newly declared state of emergency in Florida in preparation for Hurricane Irma, ABC Action News wants to remind our viewers that price gouging in the state of Florida is not only unethical, it's illegal.

On Monday, Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in response to Hurricane Irma, a major Category 5 storm approaching Florida. Executive Order 17-235 declared a state of emergency in all 67 counties within the State of Florida.

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Florida Statute 501.160 and 501.205 state that during a state of emergency 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.

Examples of necessary commodities are food, ice, gas, and lumber.

To know if a price is being gouged, compare the price to the average price over the last 30 days. If there is a large difference between the prior price and the current charge, it is considered price gouging.

If you suspect price-gouging, obtain as much information as possible. Take a photograph of the price tag with the item number, write down the product name, quality or size and the name of the manufacturer. Find previous receipts, bills, or invoices that show the price of the item within the 30 days prior to the state of emergency.

Report this information to the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline at 1-866-966-7226. You may also report violations by mailing documents to the following address:

Office of the Attorney General
The Capitol, PL-01
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050

REPORT PRICE GOUGING ON THE WEB:

File a price gouging complaint online

Please remember to include your name, the name of the company or individual, and a complaint number, if you received one.

To avoid becoming a victim of price gouging, take these steps: 

  • Plan ahead. Prepare for a disaster before it happens. Always have the following items on hand:
  • Five gallons of drinking water per person in your household
  • At least two working flashlights
  • A portable radio
  • A telephone with a cord – If the electrical power is lost, a cordless telephone will not work
  • An ample supply of batteries to power these and other items
  • A full tank of propane and charcoal if you have a charcoal grill
  • Non-perishable food items
  • Formula and diapers, if you have young children in the home
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