January 19, 2007
Jefferson City, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon said today he will not tolerate the price gouging of Missourians in areas hit hard by the ice and snowstorms of Jan. 12-14. Nixon's office is looking into more than 100 complaints from the Interstate 44 corridor from Joplin to Lebanon concerning price gouging of gasoline, kerosene, generators, motel rooms and tree-trimming services.
“At a time when several thousand Missourians are still without power and suffering from the intense cold, it is reprehensible that anyone would try to exploit them by charging outrageous prices for necessities,” Nixon said. “We are currently actively investigating any and all reports we receive of price gouging and are prepared to take appropriate action.”
To report price gouging to the Attorney General's Office, submit a complaint form online at ago.mo.gov or call the Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222.
Complaints have included gas stations charging approximately one dollar more per gallon of gasoline than normal; motels charging $50-$75 dollars more to reserve a room after the storm hit; and businesses charging consumers double and triple the normal price of a gallon of kerosene.
Nixon recovered almost $38,000 in restitution for consumers in an alleged price gouging case after a severe ice storm caused widespread power outages in eastern Missouri earlier this winter. Precision Equipment, a Farmington generator dealer, paid $37,952 in consumer restitution and $3,000 in costs to the state to resolve allegations it overcharged consumers as much as $697 per generator.
Nixon's office promulgated price-gouging regulations in the aftermath of flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers in 1993. Those regulations state that:
It is an unfair practice for any person in connection with the advertisement or sale of merchandise to -
Those who violate the price-gouging provisions can face penalties of up to $1,000 per violation under Missouri consumer protection laws. In addition to the Precision Equipment case, Nixon took action against eight gas stations in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina and against 48 stations in 2001 after Sept. 11 over allegations of price gouging. The stations paid almost $69,000 total to the state as a result of Nixon's investigation.