The headline of this Q & A exchange in the Orlando Sentinel gets it right: “It’s only price gouging if you do it occasionally.”
Under Florida’s price gouging law, “it is unlawful to sell essential commodities, which include food, ice, lumber and gasoline, for an amount that ‘grossly exceeds’ the average price for that commodity during the 30 days before the declaration of the state of emergency.”
The gas station discussed in the article sits just outside the Orlando Airport, a convenient place to refuel your rental car, but not cheap. Come hurricane or high water, the price reportedly has stayed at $5.49 a gallon.*
Notice the implication – say a station a mile down the road was selling at a typical $3.55 price during the days before Hurricane Ike and then raised its price to, say, $4.49 after the hurricane hit Gulf Coast refineries. The cheaper station could be found in violation of the price gouging law, despite the presence of the more expensive competition.
By the way, I’m intending to point out a potential absurdity in the way price gouging laws work, not trying to suggest that the state government become even more involved in fixing prices.
NOTE: The average Orlando price only increased about $0.25 after Hurricane Ike according to www.orlandogasprices.com. The price at the station in question has dropped to $4.99 a gallon. Other stations just a little further from the airport are asking prices from $2.59 to $2.75 a gallon.