Price gouging protections in effect following state of emergency declaration
Gov. Ralph Northam’s declaration of a state of emergency in response to the Colonial Pipeline ransomeware attack has triggered Virginia’s anti-price gouging statutes designed to protect consumers from paying exorbitant prices for necessities during an emergency.
“This ransomewear attack on the Colonial Pipeline could create disruptions in the gasoline supply across the Commonwealth, and unfortunately, bad actors could take advantage of this just to line their own pockets,” Attorney General Mark Herring said. “Virginians should not have to worry about paying exorbitant prices for gas and other necessary goods during this time. I want to encourage any Virginian who believes they may have a price gouging complaint related to this incident to reach out to either my Consumer Protection Section or the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.”
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.