Look out for price gouging during, after Florence

BY DANNY KELLY danny@theitem.com
Posted 9/14/18

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced on Tuesday that federal aid has been supplied to South Carolina to supplement state, tribal and local response efforts due to Hurricane Florence starting on …

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Look out for price gouging during, after Florence

Posted

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency announced on Tuesday that federal aid has been supplied to South Carolina to supplement state, tribal and local response efforts due to Hurricane Florence starting on Sept. 8.

The announcement from President Trump authorizes FEMA to coordinate all disaster relief efforts to help alleviate the local population of the hardships caused by the emergency according to a news release. Title V of the Stafford Act authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures to help protect property and public health and safety in South Carolina's 46 counties and the Catawba Indian Nation.

Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding. Elizabeth Turner has been named as the federal coordinating officer for federal response operations in the affected area, the release said.

During times that lead to state of emergency declarations, such as hurricanes, price gouging is also an issue to look out for.

"With the hurricane heading our way, South Carolina's price gouging law is now in effect," S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said in a public service announcement Monday. "The state price gouging law does make it illegal to charge what's called an unconscionable price."

Wilson wants anyone who witnesses price gouging to report it to the attorney general's office at www.scag.gov and, when reporting, note the time, address and name of the gas station or other business along with the price you've paid; write down prices nearby and the same information on those stations or businesses. He also said to take pictures that identify the gas station or business along with the price and to keep your receipt.

However, Wilson said, it's important to keep in mind that a price increase isn't necessarily price gouging, even if it's a big increase; it could be the normal effects of supply and demand.

Wilson also issued a statement on Saturday saying that people typically price gouge on food, gasoline and lodging, and that business owners can be charged for excessive pricing, a misdemeanor offense punishable with a $1,000 fine and/or 30 days in jail.

The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation also issued a statement on Wednesday warning consumers to be on the lookout for scam artists following the storm.

"We understand that consumers will be anxious to get the work done quickly so they can get their lives back to normal," said Janet Baumberger, administrator of the S.C. Residential Builders Commission. "But, we urge you to take necessary precautions when hiring repair people."

The biggest problem is usually homeowners paying too much in advance and hiring unlicensed contractors.