Monday, August 28, 2006

Fwd: Attorney General Consumer Alert

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: AGNews <>
Date: Aug 28, 2006 7:20 AM
Subject: Attorney General Consumer Alert

An Attorney General Consumer Alert has been issued.

Please click the web address below to view the alert online.

Please do not hit Reply to send a message to Attorney General
Crist or the Attorney General's Office. This email address cannot
receive incoming messages. If you wish to contact the Attorney
General's Office, please go to
and use the convenient Contact Form provided there. Thank you.

The text version of the Consumer Alert is below.

Crist Issues Consumer Alert for Approaching Hurricane Ernesto

TALLAHASSEE - Attorney General Charlie Crist today advised Floridians
to begin preparing early as the state anticipates Hurricane Ernesto's
landfall later this week. In addition to encouraging early
preparation, Crist urged residents and visitors to use caution when
purchasing necessities prior to the storm and when hiring workers to
help clean up from its aftermath.

As Florida prepares for the possibility of another significant storm
threatening the state, Crist reminded citizens to beware of businesses
or individuals overcharging for food, water, ice, gas, lodging and
generators and for materials or services needed to prepare for the
storm. This practice, known as price gouging, is against the law in
Florida under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

"When your family's safety is on the line, it's never too early to
start preparing," said Crist. "It looks like Florida may be squarely
in this hurricane's cross-hairs, and Floridians should start getting

Those who suspect price gouging before or after the storm should call
the Attorney General's hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226),
and investigators will look into the complaint. Florida law prohibits
extreme increases in the price of such commodities as food, water,
hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment needed as a direct result
of an officially declared emergency.

Under Florida law, a commodity's price is considered unconscionable if
the increase in the price represents a "gross disparity" from the
average price of that commodity during the 30 days immediately prior
to the declared emergency. Violators of the price gouging statute are
subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation, up to a total of
$25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period.

In addition to the civil penalties for price gouging, a law enacted
last year criminalizes the sale of goods and services to the public
during a declared state of emergency by anyone who does not possess
an occupational license. Violators of the law can be charged with a
second-degree misdemeanor.

During the previous two record-setting hurricane seasons, the Attorney
General's Office conducted thousands of preliminary investigations
into price gouging complaints, initiated 83 formal investigations and
filed 17 price gouging lawsuits against hotels, generator businesses,
tree removal companies and other businesses. To date, the Attorney
General's Office has recovered more than $1.3 million in restitution
or reimbursements for Florida consumers from price gouging settlements
and other resolutions. Other investigations and settlement
negotiations are ongoing.

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