With tornado recovery barely underway, reports of price gouging sent state officials across central Oklahoma ready to stop it in its illegitimately expensive tracks.
“We have 35 investigators in Moore, Shawnee, Carney and elsewhere today to check on these potential problems,” Diane Clay, director of communications for Attorney General Scott Pruitt, said Tuesday.
Scrutiny fell on hotels, car rental agencies and other providers of goods and services needed immediately during an emergency.
The state Emergency Price Stabilization Act is in effect for 16 counties after Gov. Mary Fallin declared a state of emergency. Counties in the declaration are Caddo, Cleveland, Comanche, Creek, Garfield, Grant, Greer, Kiowa, Lincoln, Logan, McClain, Okfuskee, Oklahoma, Pawnee, Payne and Pottawatomie.
Oklahoma's price gouging statute prohibits an increase of more than 10 percent in the price of most goods and services when a state of emergency has been declared.
“This weekend's severe storms left a trail of devastation across the state, damaging personal and business property that will need to be repaired or replaced,” Pruitt said. “While the overwhelming majority of Oklahomans are focused on helping their neighbors in the aftermath, we have seen a few cases of price gouging and fraudulent claims in the past, so consumers need to be alert.”
The price gouging law came after the May 1999 tornadoes that caused significant damage across a large portion of Oklahoma.
“This statute is meant to protect Oklahomans during some of their most vulnerable times,” Pruitt said. “Our hope is that knowledge of the law will prevent artificial price increases and remind anyone considering such action that they may face criminal or civil action.”
The law is in effect for 180 days for prices for repairs, remodeling and construction.
People who suspect price gouging should file a complaint with the attorney general's Public Protection Unit at www.oag.ok.gov or by calling 521-2029.