BATON ROUGE — With the rising Red River causing widespread flooding in Northwest Louisiana, there is the possibility that some unscrupulous individuals may see an opportunity to increase prices for goods and services necessary to recover from the flooding.
Fortunately, Louisiana’s price gouging law serves as an important line of defense for consumers following flooding or other natural disasters, such as hurricanes. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell is offering this helpful information to Louisiana residents about the price gouging law.
“I stand ready to assist flood victims in any way that I can, and my consumer protection staff is always available to answer questions, provide information, and help consumers and businesses in need, especially in the wake of a natural disaster,” Attorney General Caldwell said.
Attorney General Caldwell reminds consumers and businesses that Louisiana’s price gouging laws are in effect upon the state emergency declaration by the governor. The current state of emergency is in effect from May 29 to June 27.
“We want to make sure the public is well aware of the protections afforded to them under the state’s price gouging law,” Attorney General Caldwell said. “However, it is also important to remember that not all price increases are considered price gouging.”
Attorney General Caldwell answers consumers’ top five questions about price gouging in an effort to clear up any misconceptions about the law.
Top 5 Price Gouging Questions
-When does the price gouging law go into effect and how long does it apply?
The declaration of a state of emergency by the governor or by the parish president has the effect of instituting Louisiana’s prohibition against price gouging, La. R.S. 29:732(A). This prohibition is effective during the period specified in the declaration and for an additional period not to exceed 30 days after the declared state of emergency ends, unless expressly extended by the governor. La. R.S. 29:732(B).
-What is price gouging?
Under Louisiana law, price gouging occurs when goods or services sold during a state of emergency unreasonably exceed the prices normally charged in the same area at or immediately before the state of emergency. Reasonable exceptions would include price increases attributable to a national or market commodities shortages that increase the cost of doing business. This means that the price of gasoline, petroleum products, hotels, and motels are prohibited from being raised during this state of emergency unless the price increase is directly attributable to a national or market commodities shortage. These verifiable, market influenced cost increases may lawfully be passed onto the consumer.
-Does a ban on price gouging mean a seller cannot raise prices during an emergency?
No. The price gouging statute does not mean a price freeze. Wholesalers and retailers may increase prices as long as the increase in price charged by the seller is attributable to regional or national market trends and fluctuations, or to reasonable expenses and charges incurred in obtaining or selling the goods or services during the state of emergency. La. R.S. 29:732(A).
-How can I report price gouging?
If you suspect price gouging, contact your local law enforcement officials, district attorney, or the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office. In order to help law enforcement investigate your price gouging report, please include the following:
Receipts (Include the receipt for the purchase you believe to be excessive, as well as any recent receipts from the same merchant.)
Location of the merchant.
Date of the purchase.
Cost of the goods or services.
-Is price gouging only for gasoline, or does it include other commodities?
The price gouging prohibition covers goods and services necessary for use as a direct result of the state of emergency, including, but not limiting to gasoline or diesel fuel of any grade, hotels, motels and generators.
Consumers can learn more about Louisiana’s price gouging laws by visiting www.AGBuddyCaldwell.com.
Attorney General Caldwell said consumers and businesses may also contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at (800) 351-4889.