Price gouging during the hurricane
Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018
AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WRDW/WAGT) - Gas, food and a roof over your head are necessities whether you live here or evacuate here. But, it could cost you more depending which side of the river you book.
A business can charge you as much as they want during a storm as long as the governor has not declared a state of emergency. That puts the C.S.R.A. in a unique situation. One side of the river there is no state of emergency but on the other, there is a state of emergency.
Flashback to a year ago on this very same week in September. "We didn't ask for Hurricane Harvey. We're not free-loaders. You know just treat us fair. We don't want anything for free. When we evacuated we knew we were gonna have to pay. Not knowing $1500 plus you took my $225 off my card, then you charged me for food," Linda Hopkins told us last year. Evacuees fleeing Hurricane Harvey complained of hotels in Texas jacking up prices.
This week the governor declared a state of emergency in South Carolina to prevent that from happening here. This makes it illegal for businesses to take advantage of the situation through price going of food, gasoline, lodging, and other commodities. Across the river in Georgia, where the governor did not declare a state of emergency,
businesses can legally charge more.
According to www.booking.com, 97% of the rooms in Augusta are already reserved. We compared hotel rooms this week to hotel rooms next week. Prices are higher now.
Keep in mind Arts in the Heart is this weekend. About 400 rooms were already reserved for that event before the hurricane.
We could not find any available rooms in Aiken, where price gouging is illegal. Evacuees will have a challenge finding rooms in Columbia as well because of the game Carolina game.
The price gouging law is 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.
Normal fluctuations in price are to be expected and are not price gouging, but if you feel like you are the victim of price gouging there are certain steps that you can take to help our office investigate. please do the following:
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
You can contact the South Carolina Attorney General at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 803-737-3953 and leave a message if you have witnessed a likely violation.