The state attorney general warned Monday he will prosecute price-gougers who try to exploit Tennessee’s flood victims.
“This is a time when our thoughts and prayers are rightfully with those affected by the floods and their potential aftermath,” Attorney General Bob Cooper said. “While most Tennesseans would never take advantage of anyone in this tragedy, we are prepared to enforce the law against anyone who needlessly raises prices to take advantage of our fellow Tennesseans and visitors.”
Cooper urged Tennesseans to be on the lookout for businesses or individuals charging exorbitant prices for basic items in high demand during the disaster. He named hotel rooms, fuel, sump pumps, generators, shop vacuums, cleaning products, and building supplies.
After Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, the attorney general’s office took action against several gas stations and hotels that violated of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act by inflating prices.
The price-gouging act makes it illegal to set prices that are grossly in excess of the price generally charged immediately before a disaster. The price gouging act is automatically activated when the governor declares a disaster. Gov. Phil Bredesen declared a state of emergency Saturday because of flooding.
Another law makes illegal “unreasonably raising prices or unreasonably restricting supplies or essential goods, commodities or services in direct response to a ... natural disaster,” regardless of whether the event occurred in Tennessee.
Penalties for violations of the act are up to $1,000 for each violation. The state can also seek refunds for consumers.
“I urge consumers to call the state’s consumer hotline at 1-800-342-8385 to report price gouging activities. Please be prepared to provide the specifics including the location of the business and the price charged so we can take appropriate action,” said Mary Clement, the state’s consumer affairs director.