Businesses across South Carolina weren’t immune to allegations of price gouging as residents braced for the effects of Tropical Storm Irma.
Although nowhere near the thousands of complaints lodged with Florida officials, the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office received 279 total complaints of price gouging, as of Wednesday morning. More than 60 percent of those related to gas prices, while 18 percent concerned elevated prices for water. Just over 10 percent of complaints involved hotel prices, and 4 percent included spiking costs for power-related items such as batteries and generators.
The state’s price gouging law went into effect with Gov. Henry McMaster’s declaration of a state of emergency in South Carolina on Sept. 6 when it appeared that then-Hurricane Irma would make a direct hit on the East Coast. Attorney General Alan Wilson asked anyone who believed to have been the victim of price gouging to report their claims on his office’s website, email any evidence to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 803-737-3953.
With the storm passed, the Attorney General’s Office will begin the long process of reviewing the details of each complaint. Those that appear to qualify as price gouging will then be transferred to local law enforcement agencies to investigate. These agencies will then return their findings to the Attorney General’s Office, and violators will be prosecuted in court.
Those found attempting to take advantage of customers during the state of emergency could face a $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail for the misdemeanor offense.