Unconscionably Ridiculous: First It Was the Speculators, Now It's the Price Gougers
In Alabama, Attorney General Troy King is warning unscrupulous contractors and businesses that he will take action against those who seek to profit illegally at the expense of Alabamians who may suffer damage and others who seek refuge in the state from tropical storms and hurricanes.
The state law that prohibits "unconscionable pricing" of items for sale or rent comes into play when the governor has declared an official state of emergency. Gov. Riley declared a state of emergency Friday in anticipation of Hurricane Gustav.
An unconscionable price is defined as one that is 25% more than the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days, unless the increase can be attributed to a reasonable cost. The penalty is a fine up to $1,000 per violation, and those determined to have willfully and continuously violated this law may be prohibited from doing business in Alabama.
In Louisiana, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell announced zero tolerance for price gouging at the gas pump before, during, or after Gustav. His office says it's logged over 300 complaints. In one case, a station was caught jacking up the price of gas from $3.50 a gallon to $4.10
MP: Hey wait a minute, that's only a 17% increase, that would be legal in Alabama.
Caldwell says when they busted these stations, employees told his investigators they didn't know they are not allowed to raise the prices. On Highway 415, west of Port Allen, gas prices are hovering around $3.65. People are warned that if they haven't gassed up, they should get to the pump soon. Some stations are running out of gas.
MP: Hey wait minute, officials are telling people to fill up, so demand for gas is rising sharply, and supply is declining, stations are running out, and prices aren't supposed to increase?
Update: Politicians seem to have a strong dislike for high oil and gas prices, and are willing to immediately blame, investigate and prosecute price gougers and speculators for "unconscionable pricing" when oil and gas prices increase. But it's often those same politicians who continually hold our own vast domestic energy resources off-limits to exploration and development, which contributes to higher prices. Isn't that "unconscionable logic?"