Florida officials on alert for price gouging ahead of Hurricane Matthew

DAVIE, FLA. (WSVN) - With Hurricane Matthew moving closer to South Florida, authorities are on high alert for cases of price gouging across the state.

Once Florida Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency on Monday, the state’s price gouging law kicked in. “It’s disgusting that anybody would try to take advantage of anybody at this time,” he said.

The law prohibits extreme increases in the price of essential commodities like:

  • food
  • ice
  • water
  • gas
  • lumber
  • hotels

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued a stern message about attempts to take advantage of the weather emergency. “The Miami-Dade Police Department has already established a group of personnel that will be investigating these cases,” he said. “It is against the law to price gouge whenever there is a state of emergency, so if you notice that in either a product or gasoline or anything else, please call 311.”

Spikes in gas prices are what 7News viewers are reporting. At one Broward County gas station, the price of regular was $2.59 a gallon, 43 cents higher than the Florida average.

Residents waiting in line to fill up their vehicles had mixed reactions to paying more at the pump. “They’re expensive, especially, I mean, during a hurricane,” said Caroline Levy. “All kinds of families should have access to get what they need, and it makes it more difficult for everybody.”

“I expected the gas prices and water to surge a little bit,” said Jamie Krutz. “I guess it’s just how things work.”

The law stipulates that sellers are not allowed to “grossly exceed” the average price of what covered products cost in the 30 days prior to the emergency declaration. The seller must be able to justify what they’re charging by showing increases in its own costs or market trends.

Residents who believe a business is price gouging on essentials are urged to call the following hotlines to lodge complaints:

  • Florida Attorney General’s Office at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM
  • Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office at 305-547-3300

Residents are urged to keep receipts and other proof to back up their claims.

State officials urged residents who encounter price gouging at gas stations to contact them. For more information, click here.

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