Are you or your company being investigated for alleged price gouging under Fla. Stat. 501.160 during the COVID-19 crisis? You may have received a subpoena or preservation of evidence letter requesting you keep certain records because you or your business are under investigation by the Attorney General for price gouging.
Governor Desantis declared a State of Emergency on March 9, 2020 during the COVID-19 outbreak. When emergencies such as this virus, hurricanes and tropical storms, occur businesses and individuals cannot attempt to excessively profit from consumers or charge an unreasonable amount for essential commodities such as:
Violators can face criminal and civil penalties which may result in fines.
Companies typical increase prices during abrupt peaks of demand or significant drops in supply. Price gouging occurs when this increase becomes an unreasonable or unfair amount, usually prohibited by law. This can also happen during times of crisis, such as natural disasters or medical pandemics. While economies fluctuate and prices naturally rise and fall, similar to gas prices at the pump, extreme amounts may be considered exploitative and unethical.
Profiteering is related, but the distinguishable difference is that price gouging is more short-term focused and restricted to what local consumers may consider essential, such as food, clothing, shelter and other needs for preserving life.
As of March 2020, 36 states have declared price gouging as illegal, and the District of Columbia. For the state of Florida,
- Selling commodities, household essentials, rentals, fuel, etc. after a declared state of emergency at "unconscionable" prices ("grossly exceeding" average prices in the 30-day period preceding the emergency).
- A second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. There may be additional penalties imposed.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Florida price gouging hotline has also been activated.
Enforcing statutes against price gouging can be difficult to maneuver. There are many exceptions a prosecutor will overlook, and could arrest you without properly sharing the rights you do have during the process. With Jonathan Blecher on your side, you will have an experienced Miami criminal defense attorney who understands the law and knows how to make sure you have fair yet aggressive defensive representation. Florida has in the past determined price gouging complaints were unfounded, so be certain you have experience on your side.
If you are being investigated, don't hesitate. Call my office today!