CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The South Carolina Attorney General has sent local solicitors complaints of possible price gouging to investigate during the pandemic.
15th Circuit Court Solicitor, Jimmy Richardson says the Attorney General normally investigates price gouging complaints, however, since there is a state of emergency in place for all of South Carolina, the Attorney General asked for local prosecutors’ help.
Out of the 40 complaints of possible price gouging the 15th Circuit Court Solicitor’s Office received from the Attorney General, Richardson said two cases had merit.
The price gouging statute kicks in during a state of emergency. Richardson says while price gouging cases may seem obvious on the surface, there are several factors to consider.
Richardson says the price gouging statute only applies to essential items and the prices have to be at least doubled or tripled to have merit. Richardson says he eliminated several of the possible cases he received based on those factors.
“I would say something that normally sells for five dollars, if they were selling it for 12 or 15 dollars, that is enough to be price gouging, as long as there weren’t other reasons for the price markup,” Richardson said.
Prosecutors also have to consider supply and demand and the price the retailer originally paid for the item, according to Richardson.
“No one expects a business to sell chicken for what it was before the state of emergency if their cost has gone up, so there’s a lot of factors in it,” Richardson said.
Richardson plans to send two out of the 40 cases he investigated back to the Attorney General’s Office, since he does not have the authority to prosecute price gouging without permission.