As category 5 Hurricane Irma approaches the southern coast of the United States, reports of price gouging have begun flooding into the Florida Attorney General’s Office, the state’s consumer protection watchdog agency.
In anticipation of the storm, the office recently activated a hotline where residents can report violations of the statue that prohibits vendors from selling “essential commodities” like gas and bottled water at prices that “grossly [exceed] average” during states of emergency, such as a hurricane.
Southwest Florida’s NBC-2 reported that the hotline had already received 143 complaints of price gouging as of Tuesday afternoon.
To report price gouging in Florida, call the state hotline at (866)-9-NO-SCAM. Officials are urging consumers to include as many details as possible about the incident, including receipts, estimates, and product details.
Price gouging during an emergency is an unfortunately common practice. Hundreds of complaints were filed last week in Texas as consumers were met with outrageous prices for some essential goods and services after floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey devastated the state’s southern coast.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the media that his office had received reports of gas being sold for $10 a gallon, and a case of water going for $99.
After Hurricane Katrina knocked out 95% of the Southwest’s oil refining capacity in 2005, gas prices skyrocketed across the U.S., and reports of widely varying gas prices at neighboring service stations prompted nationwide price-gouging concerns.