Price gouging protections in effect ahead of potential winter weather
Gov. Ralph Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency has triggered Virginia’s anti-price gouging statutes designed to protect consumers from paying exorbitant prices for necessities during an emergency.
“The sad reality is that bad actors will take advantage of inclement weather or other natural disasters just to make an extra buck,” Attorney General Mark Herring said. “Virginians should not have to worry about paying too much for necessary goods when they are trying to keep themselves and their families safe and warm during a snowstorm. I want to encourage any Virginian who believes they may have experienced any kind of price gouging to reach out to my Consumer Protection Section and please take extra precautions during this winter weather.”
Enacted in 2004, Virginia’s Anti-Price Gouging Act prohibits a supplier from charging “unconscionable prices” for “necessary goods and services” during the thirty-day period following a declared state of emergency. Items and services covered by these protections include but are not limited to water, ice, food, generators, batteries, home repair materials and services, and tree removal services. The basic test for determining if a price is unconscionable is whether the post-disaster price grossly exceeds the price charged for the same or similar goods or services during the ten days immediately prior to the disaster.
Violations of Virginia’s Anti-Price Gouging Act are enforceable by the Office of the Attorney General through the Virginia Consumer Protection Act. Complaints should be reported for investigation to the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Section, with the exception of claims related to gasoline and motor fuel prices, which are handled by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.