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Warning from Atty. Gen.: Don’t Gouge During the Winter Weather Emergency

JACKSON, Miss.–Don’t be tempted to raise your prices to take advantage of the situation. That’s the message to businesses from Atty. Gen. Jim Hood, who said Tuesday that raising prices like that can get you into a lot of trouble.

It happened after Hurricane Katrina, when everyone was scrambling to get gas. Several stations got in trouble. But, Hood said it was not tolerated then and will not be tolerated now.

Here’s a reminder of what the law says:

The value received for all goods and services sold within the designated emergency impact area shall not exceed the prices ordinarily charged for comparable goods or services in the same market area at or immediately before the declaration of a state of emergency or local emergency. However, the value received may include: any expenses, the cost of the goods and services which are necessarily incurred in procuring such goods and services during a state of emergency or local emergency.

“Not every instance of raised prices is actually price gouging,” said Hood.  “Businesses can raise their prices in order to recover actual expenditures.  In other words, if it costs them more to
provide an item to the public, they can pass that expense along to the consumer.  In the case of gas station owners, they cannot charge more for their fuel already in the ground before the emergency only on new truck loads if it costs them more to bring the product in.”

If you suspect that your local store is taking advantage, here’s what you need to do:

Take a photo, including date and time stamp, of price signs while at the business.  However, consumers should be aware that a state of emergency declaration does not necessarily give law enforcement the means to enforce and investigate reports of price gouging.  The Governor
must include specific language in the declaration in order to “activate” the price gouging statute.

If you are gouging and you are found guilty, you could get five years in prison.

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