Friday, July 08, 2005

Hurricane Price Gouging Hotline

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is extending the hours of operation of the
Department's price-gouging hotline, keeping it activated throughout the

The hotline was activated on Thursday immediately after Governor Jeb Bush
declared a state of emergency. Florida law prohibits charging excessive or
exorbitant prices for essential items (such as gas, shelter, food, water,
generators, batteries and lumber) once a state of emergency has been
declared. Price increases that can be attributed to increased costs to the
retailer are allowed.

When price gouging can be verified, people and businesses can be fined up
to $1,000 per violation, up to a maximum fine of $25,000 a day.

In the first 24 hours of the price-gouging hotline activation, the
Department has received more than 160 calls. This includes price-gouging
complaints and some requests for information.

"It's important that people know that even before the storm gets very close
to Florida, the emergency is in effect and therefore price-gouging laws are
activated," Bronson said. "I urge people to contact us if they believe any
person or business may be taking advantage of this serious situation for
personal profit."

The price-gouging hotline will be staffed on Saturday and Sunday during the
day and citizens will also be able to leave voice mails if they call in the
evening. Every complaint is investigated by the Department. Citizens are
asked to call 1-800-HELPFLA (1-800-435-7352) with any reports of

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