South Carolinians were urged on Wednesday to ‘get prepared’ for Hurricane Irma. Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency which automatically activated the state’s anti-price gouging law, Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a news release.
Some price increases generated by regular market forces can be expected, Wilson said. But, trying to take advantage of a disaster or impending disaster through price-gouging of food, gasoline, lodging and other commodities is “a criminal violation and an unfair trade practice,” Wilson said.
Price-gouging is defined as a ‘general prohibition of unconscionable prices during times of disaster,” the law states. Violators can face misdemeanor fines of $1,000 and/or 30 days in jail.
After hurricane Matthew hit South Carolina in 2016, hundreds of price-gouging complaints were registered at the attorney general’s office such as a $4,999 Harleyville hotel room, a $33 case of bottled water in West Ashley and a $7 gallon of gas from a Dillon convenience store, the Island Packet newspaper reported.
Citizens who believe they are the victim of price gouging must take steps to help the state investigate the charge, Wilson said.
1. Note the time, place, address, and name of the gas station or business
2. Note the price you paid
3. Note any prices nearby and get the same information on those stations or businesses
4. Take pictures that identify the business, along with the price
Then contact the attorney general’s office by emailing any examples of documentation to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 803-737-3953 and leave a message. You can also report suspecrted instances of price-gouging at the AG’s web site.