Use app to report price gouging

TALLAHASSEE —With the 2019 Hurricane Season underway, Attorney General Ashley Moody launched an app called NO SCAM to help consumers quickly and effectively report price gouging during a declared state of emergency.

NO SCAM is an app designed to help consumers report allegations of price gouging in real-time and allow information on possible violations be sent to the Attorney General’s Office immediately. The app allows consumers to attach pictures, copies of receipts and more when reporting suspected price gouging—directly from smart phones.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “Price gouging during a declared state of emergency can leave Floridians feeling defenseless and cause a sense of urgency for needed commodities. The stress caused by an approaching storm and its disruptive, and sometimes, devastating aftermath should not be further intensified by price gouging. It is our hope that this new app will assist us in raising awareness about price gouging laws and deter those who might otherwise consider violating the law, while at the same time help our consumer protection investigators get the reports and supporting information they need in real-time, so they can respond immediately to thwart any alleged illegal activity.”

Proving price gouging can be complex, so having direct evidence of pricing information is important to making a case of a violation under the price gouging statute. The NO SCAM app makes it easy to supply this essential information often while you are still at the location where the alleged conduct is occurring.

The app will allow users in real-time to:
· Send pictures of prices on signs and products;
· Capture and report receipts;
· Write narratives of interactions with sellers of a good or commodity;
· Report evidence of prices of identical products by different sellers in the same vicinity; and
· Capture additional supporting documentation.

The Attorney General’s NO SCAM Price Gouging App can be downloaded for free through Apple and Android stores by searching NO SCAM.

Under Florida’s price gouging statute, F.S. 501.160, it is unlawful during a declared state of emergency to sell, lease, offer to sell, or offer for lease essential commodities, dwelling units, or self-storage facilities for an amount that grossly exceeds the average price for that commodity during the 30 days before the declaration of the state of emergency, unless the seller can justify the pricing by showing increased costs or changed market conditions resulting in increased costs.

The Florida Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division aggressively investigates allegations of price gouging and direct evidence of pricing information is a crucial component of the investigative process. If the price of an essential commodity represents a gross disparity from the average price charged 30 days before the declared state of emergency, or grossly exceeds the average market price for the area, then the price may be unlawful.

Before filing a price gouging complaint, try to gather as much information as safely possible. Below are some tips to help consumers know what evidence to capture and what to report:

• Take pictures of advertised prices, receipts, signs or price tags, and keep copies of any estimates, invoices, receipts or bills;

• If time and security permit, it may be helpful to identify the pricing of the same product sold by other sellers in the area;

• Compare products, noting similarities and differences, by recording the product name, brand, size/quantity, manufacturer, model number and price. Take pictures of the items if possible;

• Make a record of the name and address of the business or individual selling the more expensive commodity and of any others whose prices are being compared;

• Retain Receipts of necessary items purchased from businesses you generally frequent, as these may provide better context when determining if the price of the item during a declared state of emergency represents a gross disparity from the average price charged 30 days before the declaration;

• When renting a room, keep copies and make note of advertised pricing, booking confirmations and final bill. Also note the type of room and booking method; and

• For lumber purchases, it is important to note the size, grade, thickness and quality.

Report price gouging information to the Florida Attorney General’s Office online at MyFloridaLegal.com or by calling 1(866) 9NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226). For more information about price gouging, click here.

Preparing early for hurricane season and maintaining an up-to-date home emergency kit is a great way to avoid price gouging. Many of the least expensive supplies are the first items to run out, leaving only higher priced products available for purchase.

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