RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Governor Ralph Northam has declared a state of emergency ahead of winter weather triggering anti-price gouging statutes designed to protect consumers from paying excessive prices for necessities during an emergency.
“Sadly, bad actors will take advantage of inclement weather and other kinds of natural disasters in order to line their own pockets,” said Attorney General Herring.
“Virginians should not have to worry about paying too much for necessary goods or services when they have much bigger concerns like making sure they and their families are warm and have what they need to stay safe. I want to encourage all Virginians to take extra precautions during this winter weather advisory and please reach out to my office if you believe you have experienced any kind of price gouging.”
Virginia’s Anti-Price Gouging Act was enacted in 2004 and it 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.
A statement released by Herring’s office says that 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.
If a Virginia consumer suspects they are a victim of price gouging, they can call the Consumer Protection Hotline or download a complaint form from the Attorney General’s website and submit it in-person, by mail, or by fax.