BBB Warning: Hurricane Price Gouging is Illegal

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Photo By Jillian Cain Photography Shutterstock
Photo By Jillian Cain Photography Shutterstock

Texas Border Business

As Hurricane Florence approaches the Carolina/Tidewater coast, the Better Business Bureau is already receiving reports from consumers about high prices for necessary emergency items. The attorneys general for three coastal states — North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia — have initiated their state price-gouging laws, which automatically go into effect during a declared state of emergency in order to prevent businesses from over-charging customers who are preparing to weather a storm or stocking up their vehicles to evacuate.

BBB warns businesses not to give in to the temptation to raise prices during a storm, both because it may be illegal to do so and because it erodes marketplace trust. Consumers will remember which businesses took advantage of them during a storm.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein issued a warning reminding businesses “…all of North Carolina is under a state of emergency. This means that our state’s price gouging law is in effect as well. Price gouging occurs if businesses or vendors charge excessively high prices in a time of crisis. If you notice businesses in your area charging too much while under a state of emergency, report them to our office by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint online.”

On his warning statement, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said, “We can expect normal price increases, but we may see businesses and individuals looking to unfairly take advantage of the situation through price gouging of food, gasoline, lodging, and other commodities as defined by the statute. By our law, that’s a criminal violation and an unfair trade practice.” He asked consumers to use the state’s online form to report instances of price gouging. 

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued a warning that stated “Virginia’s Anti-Price Gouging Act prohibits a supplier from charging ‘unconscionable prices’ for ‘necessary goods and services’ during the thirty day period following a declared state of emergency. Items and services covered by these protections include but are not limited to: water, ice, food, generators, batteries, home repair materials and services, and tree removal services.” The state’s reporting form is available online.

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Here are some additional resources from BBB:

BBB tips on disaster preparedness

BBB Wise Giving Alliance tips on disaster giving

Avoid “storm chasers” at BBB.org/Storm

Report scams to BBB.org/ScamTracker