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Attorney General Gets Reports of Price Gouging After Storm

Since the office opened Monday morning, spokesman David Paulson says emails have been coming in accusing gas stations and hotels of raising rates due to Friday's storm.

Since Friday's storm swept through Maryland, Patch readers across the state have alerted editors to hotels and gas stations raising prices. Some people are making more formal reports to the attorney general.

"We are starting to receive some complaints," said attorney general spokesman David Paulson. "So far it's relatively few complaints—in the single digits, and they are being done by email."

He said the number is likely to rise.

Have you seen examples of this in Carroll County? Tell us in comments.

"We expect that we will get many more," Paulson said. "This is when the complaints start coming into us."

He added that while Attorney General Doug Gansler wants to hear these stories, they are essentially for informational purposes only.

"Maryland does not have a price gouging statute," Paulson said. "This office has been supportive of price gouging legislation in the past."

The attorney general can and does prosecute businesses that he suspects of price gouging under the fair practice laws of the state, but Paulson said the burden of proof in those cases is much higher. 

"We would still like to hear the complaints; we would like to get them," Paulson said.

So far, Paulson said the complaints his office has received focus on price gouging by gas stations and hotels.

"Any information that might substantiate a complaint would be useful," he said.

This information could include photos of gas station prices, receipts and screen shots. Paulson added that people shouldn't go out of their way to obtain this information.

He sent out a press release Monday warning homeowners to also be "wary of home repair scams and other consumer fraud that often follow in the wake of the storm's destructive path."

Paulson also encouraged Maryland residents to check out any charities asking for money towards the relief efforts before making a donation.

How to file a complaint:

Kathy July 03, 2012 at 11:00 AM
"Price gouging" is not illegal in Maryland--under the Free Market people and businesses are free to charge whatever the traffic will bear. Sometimes prices do legitimately have to be increased --a shopkeeper who had to pay twice as much for items has to charge twice as much to his customers. But we can keep track of the businesses that are just trying to take advantage in an emergency, spread the word, and refuse to do business there in the future.
Robin Nicole July 03, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I can believe it. Gas in Westminster alone is right around $3.20 to $3.25...go up to Hanover and it's $3.07. That's a pretty big difference, especially when MD is usually cheaper than PA.
I. DeFeo July 06, 2012 at 03:22 PM
I noticed one station that I go to regularly was $3.29 before the storm, and $3.39 yesterday when I drove by it. I was surprised until I saw this article, then I saw the dots getting connected.

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