COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - With Wednesday morning's state of emergency declaration from the governor, South Carolina's anti-price gouging law is in effect.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson made the announcement Wednesday after Gov. Henry McMaster signed an emergency declaration for the Palmetto State ahead of a possible landfall by Hurricane Irma.
"With the possibility that Hurricane Irma could make landfall in South Carolina, our people have already started making preparations," Wilson said. "We can expect normal price increases, but we may see businesses and individuals looking to unfairly take advantage of the situation through price gouging of food, gasoline, lodging, and other commodities as defined by the statute. By our law, that's a criminal violation and an unfair trade practice."
The price gouging law (SC §39-5-145) is a general prohibition of unconscionable prices during times of disaster and will be in effect until the state of emergency declaration expires or until it is terminated, Wilson said.
Price gougers can be charged for excessive pricing, a misdemeanor offense punishable with a $1,000 fine and/or 30 days in jail.
Attorney General spokesman Robert Kittle said anyone who feels they are a victim of price gouging needs to follow certain steps so the attorney general's office can investigate:
If you feel like you are the victim of price gouging there are certain steps that you can take to help our office investigate. Please do the following:
- Note the time, place, address, and name of the gas station
- Note the price you paid
- Note any prices nearby and get the same information on those stations
- Take pictures that identify the station, along with the price
- Provide your name and contact information
Potential price-gouging victims should email any examples or documentation to email@example.com or call 803-737-3953 and leave a message if you have witnessed a violation.