May 14, 2007
Springfield, Mo. — Attorney General Jay Nixon today announced seven more southwest Missouri businesses will pay a total of $92,754 in settlements with Nixon as part of his ongoing investigation into alleged price gouging after the severe ice storms of Jan. 12-14. Nixon said the businesses - which include hotels, gas stations and hardware stores - are located in Springfield, Ozark, Buffalo and Joplin. Hundreds of consumers who paid too much for hotel rooms, gas cans and portable generators from the businesses will receive restitution as a result of the settlements.
"We continue to ensure that the complaints of those consumers who were victimized twice during the devastating ice storm - once by the storm itself and then by the outrageously high prices charged for necessities - are answered," Nixon said at a news conference in Springfield. "The few businesses in the region that sought to take advantage of desperate citizens in the immediate aftermath of the storm are being held accountable, and our investigation into other potential price-gouging cases continues."
Missouri's price-gouging regulations prohibit charging excessive prices for necessities in disaster areas, and price gouging is an unfair practice under state consumer protection laws. Nixon announced the first round of legal actions in February after looking into more than 400 complaints regarding alleged price gouging. Those actions included five lawsuits and two settlements that recovered $28,000 in restitution, penalties and payments to the state. The office is still actively involved in another 12 investigations of price-gouging complaints.
In this latest round of legal action, the Attorney General reached assurances of voluntary compliance with the following businesses:
The five other price-gouging lawsuits filed in February against businesses in Springfield, Monett, Willard and Buffalo are pending.
"We have a proven track record of coming down hard on price gouging," Nixon said. "It's important to send a message to anyone else who would consider trying this that we will always be ready to act on behalf of those consumers who are victimized."
In December 2006, Nixon recovered nearly $38,000 in consumer restitution from a Farmington business over allegations of price gouging in the sale of portable generators in the wake of another winter storm. Previously, 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.