Attorney General Gets Reports of Price Gouging After Storm

Since the office opened Monday morning, spokesman David Paulson says emails have been coming in accusing gas stations and hotels of raising rates due to Friday's storm.

Since Friday's storm swept through Maryland, Patch readers across the state have alerted editors to hotels and gas stations raising prices. Some people are making more formal reports to the attorney general.

"We are starting to receive some complaints," said attorney general spokesman David Paulson. "So far it's relatively few complaints—in the single digits, and they are being done by email."

He said the number is likely to rise.

"We expect that we will get many more," Paulson said. "This is when the complaints start coming into us."

He added that while Attorney General Doug Gansler wants to hear these stories, they are essentially for informational purposes only.

"Maryland does not have a price gouging statute," Paulson said. "This office has been supportive of price gouging legislation in the past."

The attorney general can and does prosecute businesses that he suspects of price gouging under the fair practice laws of the state, but Paulson said the burden of proof in those cases is much higher. 

"We would still like to hear the complaints; we would like to get them," Paulson said.

So far, Paulson said the complaints his office has received focus on price gouging by gas stations and hotels.

"Any information that might substantiate a complaint would be useful," he said.

This information could include photos of gas station prices, receipts and screen shots. Paulson added that people shouldn't go out of their way to obtain this information.

He sent out a press release Monday warning homeowners to also be "wary of home repair scams and other consumer fraud that often follow in the wake of the storm's destructive path."

Paulson also encouraged Maryland residents to check out any charities asking for money towards the relief efforts before making a donation.

How to file a complaint:

Todd July 03, 2012 at 11:10 PM
I'll give another example of "price gouging," having experienced this from being from New Orleans. Let's say a man wants to build a workshop and the cost of the lumber is $1000. He was going to do the project this weekend. However, a hurricane hit the city yesterday and he finds himself at home off the remainder of the week. With no damage to his house, he decides to go to Home Depot to purchase the lumber. He sees that Home Depot is low on lumber but has the exact amount he needs. He also notices the prices are double from a week ago. Not wanting to blow his budget on the lumber he decides to wait until the cost has come down to the pre-hurricane cost. Irritated at the "price gouging" Home Depot is engaging in he leaves empty handed. The next customer is also irritated at the prices for lumber but decides to pay the "gougers" because his house actually does have damage and he needs to repair it. The reason the lumber is available is precisely because customer #1 valued the money is his pocket more than the lumber. Customer #2 valued the lumber more than the money. If Home Depot had not raised prices after the hurricane, customer #1 would have purchased the remaining lumber and customer #2 would have no lumber. Furthermore, because Home Depot is so "greedy" they've shipped more lumber to their New Orleans stores from Baton Rouge, Lafayette and other cities that had no damage and thus don't have the demand, all in an attempt to make the high profits.
McGibblets July 04, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Another excellent real world scenario!
LargoGuy July 05, 2012 at 03:10 PM
The gas station across from PG Community College was charging $4.59 for a gallon of regular on July 4th. Gas stations around it were charging $3.19. Looks like price gouging to me.
Apollyon July 06, 2012 at 12:24 AM
Man oh man, McGibblets,Todd,Mike and Mr. Hertz, are the only people speaking the language of LIBERTY!!! Everyone else are bringing up side issues base on faulty assumptions. 1) Need is not a claim to anything nor is it a "moral" obligation placed on those who are able to produce what it is you claim you need. Need is a signal to producers that you really want something. Think about this, if the producers didn't create the things you need (hotels and gasoline) how would you all know you "needed" them. How could you talk about what is the "right" and "wrong" price to charge an individual for their creation regardless of what the circumstances are? It simply cannot be done. If you hold to the belief that we are all free then producers of the things you "need" can charge whatever price they want to for what you think you need. Just as they are under no obligation to sell you are under no obligation to buy, that is the beauty of a free market. It is a mutual relationship. The law of supply and demand are true in all cases of a free market because the goal of the law is to be as efficient as possible which results in satisfying the most people possible with whatever particular item in question.
Apollyon July 06, 2012 at 12:38 AM
The first come first serve is the true of everything, If there are only 20 rooms at $120, then only 20 people willing to pay $120 will get those rooms, If there are only 20 rooms at $600 then only 20 people willing to pay $600 will get those rooms. The beautiful thing about a free market are all the alternatives you can get. Because of competing forces people have a variety of things to choose from, First come first serve discriminates against the people who are the last to show. Using the irrational train of thought from the socialist on this post, it is also immoral because it does not take into account the fact that the last ones to show up, may have been hurt, sick, unable to walk, and all the other things you can think of to win someones pity.


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