Price gouging concerns hit Tampa ahead of Hurricane Dorian

Package of bottled water gives sticker shock

By WFTS Digital Staff
CNN image

Satellite image of Hurricane Dorian

Tampa (WFTS) - ABC Action News has learned that the Florida Attorney General has already fielded hundreds of complaints about price gouging while people prepare for Hurricane Dorian.

A viewer alerted ABC Action News after she says a Family Dollar store in Tampa was selling bottled water at four times the normal price.

"Sadness. If our community is going to be hit by a storm, I would hope that the community would come together," said Miranda Doyel.

Doyel says she was sticker shocked by the cost of Nestle Pure Life bottled water at Family Dollar on West Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa.

A picture taken from inside the store shows 24 packs selling for $18 and $24, a steep price hike from an online ad Doyel downloaded showing the same packages costing $4.25 on special this week.

"They're trying to rip you and make money off a disaster that could potentially happen," said Doyel.

A company spokesperson sent ABC Action News a brief statement on Friday after we asked about the price inflation.

"Thank you for bringing this important matter to our attention. This was immediately escalated to the appropriate department and has been addressed. Our thoughts are with all of those preparing for the storm," said Kayleigh M. Painter.

Doyel also notified the state's price gouging hotline and says she spoke directly with Florida AG Ashley Moody.

"They were swamped with phone calls, which is sad because it shows that it's happening in other places than just this location," said Doyel.

Under Florida's laws, 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 $1,000 per violation, or up to a maximum of $25,000 per day.

"Floridians in the projected path of this storm should take steps now to ensure they are prepared for a strike and the possibility of days without electricity. This means purchasing essential commodities such as food, water and fuel. I have activated Florida's Price Gouging Hotline in an effort to prevent gouging, so Floridians can afford essential items now. Please report gouging to my office by calling (866) 9NO-SCAM or download our new reporting app," Moody said.

You can download the app for free through Apple and Android stores. Just search: "NO SCAM FLORIDA."

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