West Virginia Investigates Price Gouging Reports

In the aftermath of Friday's storms, some residents are complaining about higher price tags on products from ice to gas.

July 03, 2012

CHARLESTON - West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced a state of emergency after Friday€™s storms knocked out power across the state. Virginia€™s governor declared a similar state of emergency.

In the aftermath of the storm, some residents have charged retailers with price gouging on hot commodities like ice, generators and gasoline, the Daily Mail reports. Though not confirmed, an assistant state attorney said his office is taking the complaints seriously.

"I've heard rumors of ice being sold at maybe $4 a bag at some place but don't know how big of a bag they were talking about or where it was," said Douglas Davis, an assistant attorney general. "If it was a big bag, that's probably a fairly normal price. If it was one of those little seven-pound bags, that's pretty steep."

Only a few calls had been received about price gouging relating to gasoline. "But I haven't heard anything where anyone had come close to a 10% hike," he said. West Virginia€™s price-gouging law means that "you take the date of the emergency declaration, go back 10 days, and whatever the price was then, you can raise it 10% before we get interested."

Davis said his office is looking at news and Internet reports to check gasoline prices are not being raised while people wait in line. "Generally, if they're advertising a price outside but charging more by the time you get to the pump, Weights and Measures is all over that. That's out of the (state) Department of Labor."

A few months ago, Alaska considered a price-gouging law, while Massachusetts looked into the matter back in March.

Meanwhile, Oil Express reports that Virginia Petroleum, Convenience and Grocery Association President Mike O'Connor has notified petroleum marketers that Virginia€™s price-gouging law is in effect through July 30. Gov. Bob McDonnell declared a state of emergency for Virginia Friday night following a severe storm that has left many residents still without power. The law states that businesses can be charged with price gouging if they charge a price that is "unconscionable" when compared to the average price of the same product during the emergency declaration.