Investigators at the S.C. Attorney General’s Office are looking into reports of suspected price gouging throughout the state, an agency spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Attorney General Alan Wilson’s office has received tips that the prices of gasoline, hotels and bottled water were hiked as Hurricane Matthew approached, said Hayley Thrift Bledsoe, spokeswoman for the agency. The price gouging state statute kicks in and remains in effect while South Carolina is under a state of emergency.
The law prohibits “unconscionable prices” during times of disaster on commodities, which include food, water, lumber and other items essential for consumption or use as a direct result of a declared state of emergency. Penalties for price gougers include a $1,000 fine, 30 days in jail or both.
In the days leading up to Hurricane Matthew, evacuees in the Columbia area expressed frustration with climbing hotel prices that were attributed to out-of-towners who were visiting for the University of South Carolina game scheduled for the weekend.
But evacuee Tina Brown of James Island told The State last week some Columbia hotel rooms were advertised online for “$1,500 to $2,000.”