Fox Business: Preventing Price Gouging of Storm Victims

Michael Giberson

Last week a show on Fox Business News ran a segment titled, “Preventing Price Gouging of Storm Victims.” Spoiler: Show host Gerri Willis and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi chat about price gouging, but nothing much about “preventing price gouging” except that if you do it in Florida, the state “will be coming after you.”

 Preventing Price Gouging of Storm Victims

WILLIS REPORT: Preventing Price Gouging of Storm Victims: Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi on efforts to prevent price gouging after tornadoes and hurricanes. (Image linked to video.)

An unofficial transcript of the program follows below. Warning: If you’re looking for substance on price gouging, you won’t find it in this interview.

As a taste of the discussion, or perhaps to illustrate the reason for the warning, here is one of the most substantive points of the discussion:

WILLIS: So, technically, I guess, gouging is described as a gross disparity in the cost of something in the usual period of time and what you charge right after a storm. But that doesn’t give you actual numbers. Is there ever any dispute, any disagreement over what is gouging and what is not?

BONDI: No, because what we look at is the price, for instance, gas—what gas was selling for prior to a hurricane, and then what fuel was selling for after the hurricane—and those are the numbers that we look at. Lumber is easy, ice is easy, water is easy—any essential commodity directly related to a storm. And that is illegal, and it cannot happen.

Again, people need to be prepared now, because these scammers are getting so advanced, Gerri, and they know that we are looking at, perhaps, a rough hurricane season… um… all down our coasts.

Fox Business News? I’m not so sure that either of our interview participants understand either “news” or “business” very well, and I suspect the concept “fox” is probably a bit overly complicated for them, too.

The Willis Report, “Preventing Price Gouging of Storm Victims,” Fox Business News, June 4, 2013. (Unofficial transcript prepared by M. Giberson.)

WILLIS: Hurricane season is here already, and as you prepare your home for the worst you should also be on the lookout for those trying to profit off you. Price gougers are already taking advantage of storm victims in Oklahoma—one grocery store charging customers 40 bucks for a single case of water. Right.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi joins me now with details. Pam, you say it starts even before the storm, with what you call “pre-gouging.” Tell us about that.

BONDI: Absolutely. Gerri, NOAA … I just talked to NOAA today and they told us that there is a 70 percent probability that we are going to have 13 to 20 named storms and 11 of these are going to be hurricanes. So, people, you know, are worried now. And what’s happening, the problem we’re having in Florida is they are selling people window film for their windows, and that is not approved by the Building Association.

In 2011 we had the problem with people selling shutters, hurricane shutters, and the frightening thing is folks stay in their home based on that. You know we received $700,000 in restitution in 2011, and 200 victims, and now with these window films, people need to check anything out before they buy it from anyone telling them it will protect them and they can stay in their home and be safe.

WILLIS: Well, I have to tell you I have new respect for Floridians, because with Sandy—Superstorm Sandy—we got a taste of this, and in my little town …

BONDI: Sadly.

WILLIS: … north of the city here, there was a fella selling generators out of the back of his car for 400 bucks a pop. Now, that is not what they cost.

BONDI: Of course not.

WILLIS: But people feel like, “What can I do, if I have to buy the gas, if I have to get some lumber, if I have to protect my windows.” How do you make sure you are not being gouged?

BONDI: Well, people need to do it in advance, first of all. You know you have to stock up on, of course, water, batteries, everything, that is always good to have in your house. Also, people need to know to have prescription medications in advance, and have a plan for your pets.

But also, with the gouging, you need to call your local law enforcement—it is illegal, price gouging kicks in once a state of emergency is declared. The main…. And it has to be something necessary or essential to the storm: water, ice, boards…

WILLIS: Lumber.

BONDI: … to safeguard your house after the fact, water, ice … hotel rooms, even, who are taking advantage of people.

And so call your local law enforcement office, it is illegal, and I can tell you in Florida we will be coming after you if you are taking advantage of our citizens.

WILLIS: You don’t want to mess with Pam Bondi, believe me. (Laughs)

So, technically, I guess, gouging is described as a gross disparity in the cost of something in the usual period of time and what you charge right after a storm. But that doesn’t give you actual numbers. Is there ever any dispute, any disagreement over what is gouging and what is not?

BONDI: No, because what we look at is the price, for instance, gas—what gas was selling for prior to a hurricane, and then what fuel was selling for after the hurricane—and those are the numbers that we look at. Lumber is easy, ice is easy, water is easy—any essential commodity directly related to a storm. And that is illegal, and it cannot happen.

Again, people need to be prepared now, because these scammers are getting so advanced, Gerri, and they know that we are looking at, perhaps, a rough hurricane season… um… all down our coasts.

WILLIS: That’s how that works.

Just to show our viewers, to give them a concrete example of what can happen: Greenpoint Truck Stop, so, right here in New York City, increased prices by 88% on gas, following Superstorm Sandy. And…

BONDI: Criminal.

WILLIS: … New York gas stations are paying up $185,000 in penalties from 30 settlements.

BONDI: Good!

WILLIS: We went after them here, too, and I’m sure you’ll do the same in Florida.

BONDI: Uh-huh.

WILLIS: Thanks for coming on our show. Pam, you’ll have to come back soon, we’ll want to hear all about the hurricane season down there, and what you all are doing to keep people safe.

BONDI: Thanks Gerri, and hopefully we will beat the odds and have great weather.

WILLIS: Oh I hope so, too. Thanks so much, Pam, good to see you.

BONDI: Thank you.

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One thought on “Fox Business: Preventing Price Gouging of Storm Victims

  1. You mean supply and demand affect prices?

    I’m sure if I lived around there I’d have been very upset to see a gas station with no fuel at “normal prices” after the storm, compared to one with fuel at higher prices.

    God save us from fools.

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