|September 14, 2008
Media Contact: Jenn Meale
Phone: (850) 245-0150
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TALLAHASSEE, FL – Attorney General Bill McCollum today issued a series of subpoenas to four companies seeking information about reported increases in the price of gasoline throughout the state. The subpoenas request documentation from the companies detailing the purchase prices the companies paid for gasoline sold at their Florida retail stores. The Attorney General issued the subpoenas after receiving more than 350 complaints about gasoline price gouging over a four-day period.
“Price gouging is strictly prohibited in Florida during a declared state of emergency and my investigators have been working throughout the weekend to determine whether Floridians are being taken advantage of,” said Attorney General McCollum. “Passing along a justifiable increase in cost to consumers is legal, but we will not tolerate gouging for greed.”
The subpoenas were issued to corporate offices of Flying J, Dodge’s Gas Stores, Valero and Pilot Travel Centers. Consumer complaints against these three groups of stations have been particularly high in several areas of the state, including the Tampa region, South Florida, Central Florida, and Tallahassee and the Panhandle. Service of the subpoenas will begin tomorrow and the Attorney General has requested the sought-after materials be provided within a week.
The Attorney General’s Office began receiving an increased volume of price gouging complaints on Thursday, September 11. Investigators with the Attorney General’s Economic Crimes Division have been reviewing each complaint and have been working to make contact with the gas station owners or corporate headquarters to obtain documentation related to pricing of the gasoline. As of 11:00 a.m. today, the Attorney General’s Office had received 317 complaints about gasoline price gouging related to Hurricane Ike.
According to Florida law, price gouging on essential commodities, including gasoline, is prohibited during a declared state of emergency. The state of emergency for Hurricane Ike was issued by Governor Crist on September 5, 2008. Price gouging is an unjustified increase in the price of a commodity compared to the average price for the 30 days prior to the declaration of a state of emergency. The statute does permit businesses to pass along cost increases to consumers if those increases can be justified due to higher purchase prices, etc.
The Attorney General encouraged Floridians to continue to report price gouging to his Price Gouging Hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226).