Tennessee Consumers Should Be Wary of Hurricane-Related Price Gouging

Attorney General Slatery, TDCI Commissioner McPeak Warn Consumers
Friday, September 14, 2018 | 08:44am

NASHVILLE —  Ahead of the anticipated landfall of Hurricane Florence this weekend, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III and Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak are urging consumers to be alert to potential price gouging that could occur.

Tennessee’s unfair or deceptive acts or practices statute makes it illegal to “unreasonably [raise] prices or unreasonably [restrict] supplies of essential goods, commodities or services in direct response to . . . a natural disaster”, even if the event occurs out-of-state. Penalties for violations of the act are up to $1,000 per violation, and the Attorney General may also seek injunctions, consumer restitution, or other appropriate remedies.

“During this time, we encourage Tennesseans as well as those visiting our State to report activities they believe may exploit the vulnerable conditions caused by Hurricane Florence.” Attorney General Slatery said. “Tennessee has a reputation for hospitality and volunteerism. Our Office intends to bring to task any person or business who seeks an advantage from the misfortune of others.”

TDCI Insurance Commissioner Julie Mix McPeak said: “During times of crisis, Tennesseans pull together to help their neighbors. Unfortunately, some people view an emergency as a time to benefit themselves at others’ expense. We urge consumers to be on the lookout for price gouging and report it as soon as possible.”

If you suspect that you were a victim of price gouging, look for sudden dramatic increases in prices for necessities right before, during, or after a natural disaster. High prices are not automatically price gouging and may be reasonable based on the costs to the business. Keep a record of your transaction and record as many details as possible such as the location of the merchant, the date and time of your purchase, the method of payment, the price of the item in days prior to the sudden price increase, and the price you paid. Always keep your receipts. Take pictures of a listed price with your cell phone.

If you believe a business is price gouging, you can file a complaint at www.tn.gov/consumer or call toll-free at 1-800-342-8385.