The governors of Georgia and Alabama are sending a clear message to local gas stations hoping to profit from Hurricane Ike: engage in price gouging and pay the price.
Ala. Gov. Bob Riley and Ga. Gov. Sonny Perdue declared Friday a state of emergency for their respective states. That means price gouging laws are now in effect.
Alabama gas stations that hike prices unfairly will face fines of up to $1,000 per violation. If a business shows it has "willfully and continuously" violated the law, the business may be banned from doing business in Alabama.
Georgia violators will get hit with penalties between $2,000 and $25,000 per violation.
Price gouging is a practice in which businesses charge exorbitant and unfair higher prices for goods or services. Consumers fall victim, as they have little choice but to buy. The practice usually happens when a natural disaster occurs.
Georgia law allows price increases if a retailer's cost for goods or services —or transporting cost for the aforementioned — goes up. It also allows price increases due to supply and demand.
But it is against Georgia law to sell goods or services at an "unreasonable or egregious" price.
In Alabama, an "unconscionable price" is defined as one that's 25 percent or more than the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days — unless the increase can be attributed to a reasonable cost.
Think a local gas station is guilty of price gouging? Contact the offices below:
AlabamaConsumer Protection Unit - Call 1-800-392-5658 or visit www.ago.state.al.us.
GeorgiaGovernor's Office of Consumer Affairs - Call 404-651-8600 or 1-800- 869-1123.