PRICE GOUGING DURING A DECLARED EMERGENCY
Living in Florida, we all understand the shortages of certain items that occur leading up to and including landfall of a hurricane. We also know that at times, these shortages may result in higher prices for certain items like gasoline, building materials, water, batteries and duct tape.
Having not ever experienced a pandemic like Covid-19, I must admit that I did not expect there to be a shortage of toilet paper. As a result I never thought about hoarding it, let alone being with out it. Toilet paper is just one of those things that no one really thinks about, except when you need it and don’t have it - and we all have been there!
Fortunately, our state legislators not only anticipated shortages of certain necessary commodities during times of declared emergencies, but they also recognized that these situations provided an opportunity for price gouging. In fact, after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the State of Florida enacted the anti-price gouging law (FS 501.160) that makes it illegal at a time of an emergency to rent or sell an “essential commodity” at an “unconscionable price”. The law defines an essential commodity as “… supplies, services, provisions, or equipment that is necessary for consumption or use as a direct result of the emergency” and an unconscionable price as that which “grossly exceeds” what it was 30 days prior to the declared emergency.
Florida’s anti-price gouging law further provides that any violation of the law constitutes an unlawful act and practice under Florida’s Deceptive & Unfair Trade Practices Act, (FS 501.201), which in turn permits an individual to bring a claim for damage as a result of the price gouging.
In 1992 I actually lived and worked in Miami and these necessary commodities included hotel/motel rooms, gasoline, generators, plywood, roofing materials, storage units, water and diapers.
Fast forward to today and here we are in the midst of an extended stay at home order with a shortage of toilet paper, hand-sanitizer, and masks. I don’t know about you, but I consider these items to be essential commodities.
So, if you have paid too much for toilet paper, masks, disinfectants, hand sanitizer or any other essential commodity since our Governor declared a state of emergency on April 1, 2020, we would like to hear from you. You have rights and recourse under Florida Law.
Please remember to follow the CDC Covid-19 Guidelines and remain safe. We wish You and Your Family the very best during these difficult times. All of us can get through this by working together.