South Carolina has enacted its price-gouging law as the state prepares for Hurricane Irma. The law helps protect consumers against businesses looking to take advantage of the oncoming storm.
The price-gouging law only goes into effect when a state of emergency is declared, which Governor Henry McMaster ordered on Wednesday. State agencies are now preparing for potential disaster.
“With the possibility that Hurricane Irma could make landfall in South Carolina, our people have already started making preparations,” said State Attorney General Alan Wilson. “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. By our law, that’s a criminal violation and an unfair trade practice.”
With the price-gouging law in effect, law enforcement may now monitor retail prices closely to check for significant increases. The law will remain in effect until the state of emergency expires (15 days) or is terminated.
Those who violate the law will face a $1,000 fine and potentially 30 days in jail.
State officials say law enforcement relies heavily on input from the public, so consumers are encouraged to report cases of price gouging to the attorney general’s office.
Reports should include the following information:
- Name of the business
- Time, place and address
- The price charged
- Prices at nearby businesses
- The complainant’s contact information
- Photos (if possible) to identify the company
Complaints can be called in at 803-737-3953 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While price gouging is typically associated with gasoline, the law also applies to any other retail business, including hotels.
Hurricane Irma hit the island of Barbuda as a category 5 storm, destroying 90% of buildings and leaving the island uninhabitable, according to officials. The dangerous storm is closing in on Florida, with South Carolina expected to be impacted early next week.