With a storm on the way, be careful of price gouging

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about price gouging.

Moody is actually an honorary Conch.

She said, “I spent a lot of time down there over the past six years. I was real honored when the former mayor there in Monroe County and the community recognized me as an honorary Conch. Truly it was so overwhelming and really I’ve honored it to this day. The designation sits in my capital office and it’s so great to see and heartwarming. It gives me fond memories when I’m down there. I loved it.”

The attorney general’s office oversees a lot of different aspects of life, including protecting Florida consumers from various types of fraud and enforcing the state’s antitrust laws.

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM noted, “I want to also thank you for all of your service on behalf of domestic violence victims. The list of what you have accomplished in your career, as well as serving the public in general, certainly is voluminous. We want to thank you for your leadership there.”

“Good to be with you,” Moody said.

Price gouging is an issue, especially right before a storm, and the AG’s office has a price gouging hotline.

Moody said, “When there’s a state of emergency declared by the governor, that activates our price gouging statute. This is always a good refresher even for the Keys. When a state of emergency is activated, we start manning 24 hours, our price gouging hotline.”

Price gouging has specific implications when there’s a declared state of emergency and people increase prices knowing that demand on certain items will increase.

Moody said, “When folks are trying to get supplies and trying to prepare from water to food to flashlights, batteries, tarps, you name it, essential commodities. We want to make sure everybody can afford these. Our laws prevent people from raising these prices. We saw it lot during prior state of emergencies, double, triple quadruple prices. We have a rapid response team. It takes a lot of effort to, thereafter in litigation, hold people accountable, but what we’re really focused on is during the time period, bringing those prices down so people can afford these essential supplies. So we asked Floridians to be on alert, especially when you’re in those jurisdictions that are under a state of emergency, report when you see price gouging.”

There is also an app called No Scam that you can download on your mobile device to report price gouging.

Moody said, “It helps us in the long run when we’re trying to hold bad actors accountable.”

The price gouging hotline is 866-966-7226.

What would be an example of price gouging?

Moody said, “If you see an unconscionable increase in price, an extreme increase in price. We see this on everything from gas, to water, to even hotel rooms, and sometimes they’re in the path of an evacuation route. The prices will be increased to a point where it’s way above what it was just 30 days ago. So you kind of look at what the price was 30 days ago before we were in a state of emergency. And if it looks like somebody’s trying to take advantage of folks that are just trying to prepare and safeguard their homes and their families, that’s where there’s going to be a problem. We’re very concerned on that as people are preparing and stocking up, because we’re out there every day warning folks that are in the path of the storm, you need water, a gallon daily per person for three to seven days, you need food, you need a non-electric can opener. We want to make sure people can afford it. So that’s what we’re focusing on leading up to the impact of a storm and thereafter. People are trying to fix roofs, trim trees, buy products to fix their homes. We’ll be looking at price gouging, but also the related scams that come along, where folks are just trying to take advantage of people in a desperate situation where it goes from more than a supply and demand thing where it’s more, these unconscionable increases in prices, especially where it’s been impacted.”

There is also literature available to provide information on the scams.

Moody said, “These are just ways that our office is engaged during storms, but of course, we’re here year round if folks feel that they’ve been taken advantage of in terms of scams. They can always call our hotline.”

The penalties can be pretty severe for this type of fraud and include $1,000 per violation up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed within a single 24 hour period.

Moody said, “This is a great way to remind folks like look, if you’re thinking about going out there and selling water, selling something at a drastic price increase just because you can and it’s an emergency, it’s important to remind people that these laws are out there and we’re in this together. I know the Keys knows this probably better than any place in the state. When you’re facing down a dangerous deadly storm, you’ve all got to be in this together and take care of and look out for each other, just like an extended family would. When someone might think about that or be inclined to think about using this really trying and challenging situation to make a buck, to think again. Florida is an amazing state. I have no doubt we’re going to stay on this path of continued success and prosperity. We’re just thriving. It’s because we have folks who pull together and want to stay on this path of vitality, and I’m excited for our state.”

Safety is such an important issue for the Attorney General.

She said, “As the wife of a law enforcement officer and as a mother of a young school aged child, I wake up every day thinking of ways that we can do better and you just let us know, your listeners let us know how we can do that. The best ideas that we’ve had in terms of making suggestions to improve our laws or launching initiatives throughout the state have come from that interaction with Floridians.”

Stapleford said, “It really is humbling and it’s a proud moment to speak to you because it’s evident that your heart is in the right place and that your leadership is going to benefit all of us.”

For all the initiatives from the AG’s office, click here: https://www.myfloridalegal.com/