Kathleen G. Kane - Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General - Protecting Pennsylvanians

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February 8, 2010

Attorney General Corbett cautions PA consumers and businesses about price gouging following massive statewide winter storm

Snow2-366x190HARRISBURG - Attorney General Tom Corbett today cautioned Pennsylvania consumers and businesses about price gouging following a massive weekend winter storm that has many communities still struggling with snow removal and other related issues.

"Our state price-gouging law was designed to protect consumers and businesses from sudden, unwarranted price increases during emergency situations," Corbett said.  "The price gouging restrictions apply to anyone involved in the distribution or sale of consumer goods or services, prohibiting 'unconscionably excessive' increases above the average prices observed during the week prior to the emergency." 

Corbett said the Governor's February 6th declaration of a statewide disaster emergency triggered the price gouging restrictions, which will extend for 30 days after the expiration of the disaster declaration.

"As many Pennsylvania communities continue to dig free from last weekend's record snowfall, and with another major storm bearing down on the state, it is important for everyone - consumers and businesses alike - to understand exactly what constitutes price gouging," Corbett said. "Price increases for consumer goods or services that are 20% or more above the average prices before this storm are not allowed, except in some very limited situations."

Corbett said the price gouging law gives the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection the authority to investigate price gouging complaints and allows for penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

He noted that the emergency price restrictions not only apply to businesses involved in direct consumer sales, but also to manufacturers, suppliers, wholesalers and distributors of consumer products and services.

"I encourage any Pennsylvania consumer or business who feels they are the victims of price-gouging to contact our office so we can thoroughly investigate the situation."

Corbett said consumers can report potential price-gouging by calling the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Hotline, toll-free, at 1-800-441-2555 or by filing an online consumer complaint.

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