Attorney General Bob Cooper is asking all Tennesseans to be on the lookout for consumer abuses following the Governor's declaration of a State of Emergency in light of the severe weather and floods in East Tennessee.
Some individuals may take advantage of the terrible acts of nature by unreasonably or excessively raising the prices they charge for goods and services that are essential and vital to the health and welfare of storm ravaged consumers. This illegal practice is called price gouging. Some examples of basic items people need to watch for possible extraordinary rising prices are: hotels and fuel rates; sump pumps; generators; shop vacuums; cleaning products and building supplies.
In the wake of well publicized disasters, contractors from around the country sometimes converge on devastated communities seeking clean up and repair work. While many of these businesses are legitimate, some are looking for a quick profit and may not be fully qualified or interested in doing a thorough job.
"This is a time when our thoughts and prayers are rightfully with those affected by the floods and their potential aftermath," Attorney General Bob Cooper said. "Most Tennesseans would never take advantage of anyone in this tragedy. When possible, it is best to hire locally for repairs and clean up and always check on the background of any contractor. Our office is prepared to enforce the law against anyone who seeks to take advantage of our fellow Tennesseans by doing shoddy work or needlessly raising prices."
The Attorney General, in conjunction with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs, reminds consumers and businesses that they have taken action in the past against those who sought to take advantage of natural disasters.
The price gouging act specifically cites that it is illegal to set prices that are grossly in excess of the price generally charged immediately prior to the disaster.
Another law makes illegal "unreasonably raising prices or unreasonably restricting supplies or essential goods, commodities or services in direct response to a . . . natural disaster," regardless of whether the event occurred in Tennessee.
The Tennessee Consumer Protection Act also may provide other protections for consumers who are the victims of unscrupulous activities in the wake of a natural disaster.
Gary Cordell, the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, stated. "I urge consumers to call the State's consumer hotline at 1-800-342-8385 to report price gouging activities or other attempts to take advantage of people already suffering from storm damage."
"Please be prepared to provide all of the specifics you know, including the name, location of the business, nature of the purchase, date, and the price charged so we can take appropriate action," he added.
For more information, visit the Tennessee Attorney General's website at www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral and go to consumer links and information.