Price Gouging Hotline

REGULATION OF TRADE, COMMERCE, INVESTMENTS, AND SOLICITATIONS Chapter 501 CONSUMER PROTECTION

501.160 Rental or sale of essential commodities during a declared state of emergency; prohibition against unconscionable prices.--


(1) As used in this section:


(a) "Commodity" means any goods, services, materials, merchandise, supplies, equipment, resources, or other article of commerce, and includes, without limitation, food, water, ice, chemicals, petroleum products, and lumber necessary for consumption or use as a direct result of the emergency.


(b) It is prima facie evidence that a price is unconscionable if:


1. The amount charged represents a gross disparity between the price of the commodity or rental or lease of any dwelling unit or self-storage facility that is the subject of the offer or transaction and the average price at which that commodity or dwelling unit or self-storage facility was rented, leased, sold, or offered for rent or sale in the usual course of business during the 30 days immediately prior to a declaration of a state of emergency, and the increase in the amount charged is not attributable to additional costs incurred in connection with the rental or sale of the commodity or rental or lease of any dwelling unit or self-storage facility, or national or international market trends; or


2. The amount charged grossly exceeds the average price at which the same or similar commodity was readily obtainable in the trade area during the 30 days immediately prior to a declaration of a state of emergency, and the increase in the amount charged is not attributable to additional costs incurred in connection with the rental or sale of the commodity or rental or lease of any dwelling unit or self-storage facility, or national or international market trends.


(2) Upon a declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor, it is unlawful and a violation of s. 501.204 for a person or her or his agent or employee to rent or sell or offer to rent or sell at an unconscionable price within the area for which the state of emergency is declared, any essential commodity including, but not limited to, supplies, services, provisions, or equipment that is necessary for consumption or use as a direct result of the emergency. This prohibition remains in effect until the declaration expires or is terminated.


(3) It is unlawful and a violation of s. 501.204 for any person to impose unconscionable prices for the rental or lease of any dwelling unit or self-storage facility during a period of declared state of emergency.


(4) A price increase approved by an appropriate government agency shall not be a violation of this section.


(5) This section shall not apply to sales by growers, producers, or processors of raw or processed food products, except for retail sales of such products to the ultimate consumer within the area of the declared state of emergency.


(6) Nothing herein shall be interpreted to preempt the powers of local government except that the evidentiary standards and defenses contained in this section shall be the only evidentiary standards and defenses used in any ordinance adopted by local government to restrict price gouging during a declared state of emergency.


(7) Section 501.211 notwithstanding, nothing in this section creates a private cause of action in favor of any person damaged by a violation of this section.


(8) Any violation of this section may be enforced by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the office of the state attorney, or the Department of Legal Affairs.


(9) Upon a declaration of a state of emergency by the Governor, in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of residents, any person who offers goods and services for sale to the public during the duration of the emergency and who does not possess an occupational license under s. 205.032 29 or s. 205.042 commits a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. or s. . During a declared emergency, this subsection does not apply to religious, charitable, fraternal, civic, educational, or social organizations. During a declared emergency and when there is an allegation of price gouging against the person, failure to possess a license constitutes reasonable cause to detain the person, provided that the detention shall only be made in a reasonable manner and only for a reasonable period of time sufficient for an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the failure to possess a license.


This act shall take effect July 1, 2005.