On Tuesday, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody expanded the state’s Price Gouging Hotline to receive reports of unconscionable price increases on essential commodities in Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties.
As these two counties continue to fall within the predicted path of Hurricane Sally, Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in those counties and Moody expanded the Price Gouging Hotline respectively. Florida’s price gouging laws for this event only apply within the area of the declared state of emergency and only for commodities and services essential to preparing for or recovering from the storm event.
In addition to this new state of emergency regarding Hurricane Sally, a state of emergency also remains in effect for Hurricane Michael in certain North Florida counties. Additionally, the price gouging laws continue to apply statewide under the ongoing emergency declaration in response to the COVID-19 pandemic for commodities that relate specifically to the health crisis.
“We are at the peak of a very active hurricane season. Currently, the Atlantic Ocean has five tropical cyclones simultaneously, including Hurricane Sally. All Floridians should take this time to prepare for a potential storm. Ensuring you have the resources you need to get you and your family through a storm should be done now, not later. And as you prepare, if you see potential price gouging, do not hesitate to report it. My office stands ready to stop gouging and protect consumers,” Moody said on Tuesday.
During a storm-related declared state of emergency, state law prohibits excessive increases in the price of essential commodities, such as food, water, hotel rooms, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment, needed as a direct result of the event. Anyone who suspects price gouging should report it to the Attorney General’s Office by using the NO SCAM app or by calling 1(866) 9NO-SCAM.
Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period. In addition to the civil penalties for price gouging, state law criminalizes the sale of goods and services to the public without possession of a business tax receipt.