Do Florida’s price-gouging laws apply to your business?

Florida takes price-gouging very seriously — so much so that the state even maintains a hotline where consumers can report suspected incidents. While that’s commendable, not every complaint made by an angry consumer is actually valid.

What is price-gouging?

Florida’s price-gouging statute is somewhat broad. It says that it is illegal for businesses to rent, sell or lease residential units, storage facilities and “essential commodities” during a state of emergency at an “unconscionable” price.

The reason this can be problematic is that exactly what is considered an essential commodity and exactly what is considered an unconscionable price can change according to the circumstances. When a hurricane is approaching, for example, generators and building supplies may all become essential commodities. Trying to sell them for a price that is hugely different than normal would likely be unlawful.

In essence, that means any business has the potential to carry goods that may be subject to price-gouging laws. You simply have to be conscious of the events in your area and recognize that the normal rules of commerce may not apply when there’s a pressing need driving consumer behavior. If an item is in scarce supply, you need to be cautious about how high you raise the price.

What should you do if you receive a complaint about price-gouging?

The penalties for your business, if the price-gouging complaint against your business is upheld, can be serious. The state can not only force you to reimburse your customers, you can be hit with heavy fines.

But a complaint doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve done anything wrong. Before an investigator shows up at your office door, it is wisest to get some legal assistance. An attorney can help you protect everything you’ve worked so hard to create.