HOUSTON – With Winter Storm Warnings issues recently across Mississippi, Attorney General Jim Hood reminded residents and business owners of the legalities concerning price gouging during a state of emergency.
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.”
Hood, who recently opened a satellite office in Houston, said consumers who have concerns about price hikes during the recent winter storms are urged to contact his office.
“Not every instance of raised prices is actually price gouging,” said Mississippi Attorney General Jim 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.”
In order to help investigators, the AG suggests that consumers with price gouging complaints 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.
“In cases where the necessary language is not immediately invoked in the state of emergency declaration, we continue to monitor calls and complaints and advise the Governor’s office so that he can make the call as to whether to amend the declaration,” said Attorney General Hood.
Violations of Mississippi’s price gouging laws could result in one to five years behind bars per count.
Any business owners with questions about the law and any consumers with complaints can contact the AG’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-281-4418. Consumers may go to agjimhood.com for more information.