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State Fields Hundreds Of Price Gouging Complaints

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MIAMI (CBS4) – Hurricane Isaac may be well past South Florida, but the big storm’s impact has left its mark on our gas prices.

CBS4 found it is ‘good-bye’ to gas in the high three dollar range because four dollars a gallon and more are popping up at various stations.

Florida’s still under a declared emergency because of Hurricane Isaac and the state’s price-gouging laws remain in effect. But as gas prices climb some tourists think they’re being ripped off.

Isaac’s path impacted the heart of the U.S. oil industry. It forced petroleum platforms in the Gulf of Mexico to shut down along with almost half of the country’s oil refineries.

“The minute that it’s sidelined, automatically you can expect the prices to go up between 10-15 cents,” said gasoline distributor Max Alvarez.

So how high and how fast will we see gas going up?

Some local gas watchers say gas will soon be going up over $4.00 a gallon and even higher.

Venezuelan tourist Carlos Perez filled up off LeJuene Road by Miami International Airport.
He paid $4.59 a gallon for regular and wasn’t happy about it.

“I think Miami, being a source of tourism, I think they should do something to reduce the gas prices,” said Perez. “That would attract people. The way it is now, it’s putting the people out.”

Believe it or not, Perez said gas prices were even higher at the station next door, up over $4.70 a gallon.

Local cabbie Richardo Andrade thinks tourists are being especially targeted with high gas prices near the airport car rental agencies.

“They rip you off, they’re taking their money away especially with the rental cars I mean,” said Andrade.

Even some local gas distributors say dealers are now raising prices way over their wholesale costs, according to Alavarez.

“The worst it does to our industry is give us a black eye. And when they get gouged, I’m pretty sure they have a bad taste in their mouth and that’s bad not only for the industry, but it’s bad for our area; it’s bad for Dade County, it’s bad for South Florida,” said Alvarez.

Under the state’s current emergency declaration, increased costs can be legally passed on to consumers is they can be substantiated.

The questions now facing state prosecutors involve whether gas stations are “price gouging” if they’re more than 60-cents a gallon higher than neighboring businesses and are they committing a possible violation of state consumer protection laws.

Violators face civil penalties up to $1,000 per violation and up to $25,000 for multiple violations in a 24-hour period.

Suspected price gouging can be reported to the state’s hotline at 866-966-7226.

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