MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Florida residents preparing for a possible hit from Hurricane Matthew are being warned of price gouging.
Price gouging is when a retailer prices an essential commodity above market price when there is a shortage of the item during the 30 days before the declaration of a state of emergency. It’s illegal unless the seller can justify the price by showing increases in market trends. Essential commodities include food, ice, gas and lumber.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle says her team is ready to respond to complaints of price gouging.
“Now that the Governor has declared a state of emergency, price gouging is a criminal offense. We are joining the efforts to combat any greedy individuals and businesses that may use tragic events like a hurricane to take advantage of our community’s fundamental needs by unnecessarily hiking prices to outrageous levels,” commented Fernandez Rundle. “Greedy actions will not be tolerated before, during, or after any natural disaster.”
If you suspect price gouging, you would need to get as much info as possible for evidence in the form of invoices, estimates, receipts or bills.
To avoid price gouging, try to have the following items on hand before a major event, according to the Florida Office of the Attorney General:
- Five gallons of drinking water per person in your household
- At least two working flashlights
- A portable radio
- A telephone with a cord – If the electrical power is lost, a cordless telephone will not work
- An ample supply of batteries to power these and other items
- A full tank of propane and charcoal if you have a charcoal grill
- Non-perishable food items
- Formula and diapers, if you have young children in the home
Those wanting to report any suspicion of price gouging can call the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline at 1-866-966-7226. You can also report violations online by clicking here or mail documents to the following address: Office of the Attorney General, The Capitol, PL-01, Tallahassee, FL 32399-1050.