ORLANDO, Fla. – The Florida Attorney General's Office has activated its price gouging hotline as Floridians prepare for Hurricane Dorian.
Florida law prohibits excessive increases in the prices of several essential commodities in the event of an emergency, including food, water, hotel rooms, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment, according to Attorney General Ashley Moody.
The activation of the hotline comes as Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for all Florida counties. Florida’s price gouging law only applies within the area of the declared state of emergency, according to officials with Moody's office.
Anyone who suspects price gouging during the declared state of emergency should report it to the attorney general’s office by using the free No Scam app or by calling 866-9NO-SCAM. Details on how to download the No Scam app can be found here.
Before filing a price gouging complaint, officials ask that you gather as much information as possible.
Consumers can use the following tips, courtesy of the attorney general's office, to determine what they should include in a report:
- Take pictures of advertised prices, receipts, signs or price tags, and keep copies of any estimates, invoices, receipts or bills.
- If time and security permit, it may be helpful to identify the pricing of the same product sold by other sellers in the area.
- Compare products, noting similarities and differences, by recording the product name, brand, size/quantity, manufacturer, model number and price. Take pictures of the items if possible.
- Make a record of the name and address of the business or individual selling the more expensive commodity and of any others whose prices are being compared.
- Retain receipts of necessary items purchased from businesses you generally frequent, as these may provide better context when determining if the price of the item during a declared state of emergency represents a gross disparity from the average price charged 30 days before the declaration.
- When renting a room, keep copies and make note of advertised pricing, booking confirmations and final bill. Also note the type of room and booking method.
- For lumber purchases, it is important to note the size, grade, thickness and quality.
Violators of Florida statute Section 501.160, which makes price gouging illegal during a declared state of emergency, are subject to penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period, according to Moody. In addition to the fines for price gouging, Florida law criminalizes the sale of goods and services to the public without possession of a business tax receipt. Violators can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor.
To learn more about price gouging and how to report it, click here.