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.
Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Georgia 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 station may be barred 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 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.
In a statement, Perdue said the threat of Hurricane Ike has disrupted gas production and distribution, which will affect prices.
“However, we expect the prices that Georgians pay at the pump to be in line with the prices retailers are paying,” s aid Perdue, who signed an executive order Friday evening activating Georgia’s price gouging law.
“We will not tolerate retailers taking advantage of Georgians during a time of emergency,” Perdue said.
Georgia law allows price increases if a retailer’s cost for goods or services — or transportation cost — 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.
Riley declared a state of emergency for Alabama after the U.S. Department of Energy told him that energy s h o r t a ge s we re l i kel y because of Hurricane Ike.
An Alabama governor can declare a state of emergency when there has been or it is anticipated that there will be an attack on the U.S., a serious natural disaster that affects Alabama or a public health emergency. During a state of emergency, “uncons c i o n a b l e p r i c i n g ” i s outlawed.
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.
“It is wrong and against the law to illegally charge outrageous amounts for necessities that people must have in times of emergency,” Troy King, Alabama attorney general, said in a statement.
AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report recorded Saturday the Columbus area’s average price for regular gas at $3.94 — a 20-cent increase from $3.74 the day before.