AG's Office Expects More Price-Gouging Complaints
Dozens call state attorney general to question price rip-offs following the derecho.
The Office of the Attorney General has received dozens of calls and e-mails about price gouging in the aftermath of the June 29 storm, but so far only four formal complaints have been filed.
Most of the incidents reported are about gas stations boosting prices, but some also are about hotel prices post-storm, according to AG spokesman Alan Brody.
Brody said as of Friday at noon, only four official complaints were filed by consumers.
Those complaints originated with businesses in Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties, Brody noted. Three cases have already been closed.
Complaints were filed against the Exxon on Forest Drive in Annapolis, a Shell on Bestgate Road and an Exxon in Upper Marlboro.
The final complaint was against a hotel in Prince George's County, but that case remains open.
Residents rushed to gas stations following the storm and those stations with power saw a boost in business, not only for gas but for ice, too. Gas prices were dropping before the storm.
The complaint filed against the Exxon on Forest Drive said that the station increased its price by 30 cents a gallon in just one day, while the Shell on Bestgate Road was selling its regular gas for more than $3.50 a gallon.
Brody said although price gouging is a bad practice, it's hard to prosecute as there are no specific laws against it. In theory it could be prosecuted under the fair practice laws.
He believes more complaints will be filed in coming weeks, after residents have fully recovered from dealing with the storm and once they notice that they may have been cheated out of money. He said he also believes complaints could come in against private tree removal and storm clean up companies as well as contractors fixing repairs.
"They'll start complaining if the work was bad," Brody said, "or if they notice later what they were actually charged."
Residents can help the Attorney General's office prosecute these cases by providing ample documentation, including receipts and pictures of the price gouging.
To file a formal complaint about price gouging, go to the Office of the Attorney General's website or call the Consumer Protection Division at (410) 528-8662, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.