South Carolina

SC price-gouging law kicks in ahead of possible tropical weather

What Gov. McMaster said as Florence track shows possible Carolinas landfall

South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in anticipation of a potential hurricane. Tropical Storm Florence is expected to strengthen to a hurricane and make landfall next week.
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South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018, in anticipation of a potential hurricane. Tropical Storm Florence is expected to strengthen to a hurricane and make landfall next week.

South Carolina’s law against price gouging is in effect with the possibility of tropical weather in the coming week, the state attorney general’s office announced Saturday.

The news from S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson came shortly after Gov. Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency as forecasts showed an increasing likelihood that then-Tropical Storm Florence will make an East Coast landfall.

“We can expect normal price increases, but we may see businesses and individuals looking to unfairly take advantage of the situation through price gouging of food, gasoline, lodging and other commodities as defined by the statute,” Wilson said in a statement. “By our law, that’s a criminal violation and an unfair trade practice.”

The storm as of 11 a.m. Saturday was still projected for a possible East Coast landfall, with both Carolinas now in the five-day forecast in what’s known as the “cone of uncertainty.” The storm had maximum sustained winds of 65 mph.

“We don’t know if it is going to come to South Carolina, and if it does, we don’t know when and we don’t know how strong it will be,” said McMaster. “It has the potential to get very strong.”

Saturday’s statement from Wilson’s office described the price-gouging law as “a general prohibition of unconscionable prices during times of disaster. It is in effect until the state of emergency expires or is terminated. Price gougers can be charged for excessive pricing, a misdemeanor offense punishable with a $1,000 fine and/or 30 days in jail.”

This is the suggested course of action if you believe you’re the victim of price gouging:

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.

5. Provide your name and contact information.

Then email any examples of gouging or documentation to pricegouging@scag.gov. You also can call 803-737-3953 and leave a message with details of a likely violation.

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