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Just prior to a disaster and during the early recovery period, items like food, ice, generators, lanterns, lumber, etc. may be in short supply. Charging “unconscionable prices” for these and other necessities prior to and after a disaster is not only unethical, it's illegal. An “unconscionable price” is determined by comparing the price asked during an emergency with the price charged for the same commodity during the preceding 30-day period. The Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources (RER) publishes an annual price commodity survey. Merchants are not permitted to charge excessive prices unless the increases in prices are attributable to cost increases incurred by merchants.
A declaration of a state of emergency triggers anti-price gouging provisions of both a State law and the Miami-Dade County Code under which providers of goods can be prosecuted if they use a disaster to hike prices. These laws ban retailers from charging unconscionable prices for goods likely to be in greater demand if there is a disaster.
In the event of Miami-Dade County is threatened or hit by a hurricane or other disaster, a state of emergency can be declared by the Governor, the County Mayor, the Board of County Commissioners, the County Manager or the Director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, thus triggering the anti-price gouging regulations.
In actions taken by RER, the maximum fines for price gouging range from $500 in an administrative hearing to $10,000 in a civil court action. Actions taken by the State can result in civil penalties equaling $1,000 per violation and/or criminal prosecution.
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