COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – Governor Henry McMaster declared a state of emergency for all of South Carolina in early March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which means the state’s price gouging law is in effect.
Attorney General Alan Wilson warned of “businesses and individuals looking to unfairly take advantage of the satiation through price gouging of things like hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper.”
A spokesperson says the Attorney General’s office has received more than 200 complaints of price gouging statewide and said reports continue to come in every day.
Last week, AG Wilson’s office told News 2 the most common complaints have been for toilet paper and sanitizer, including Lysol spray, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and bleach.
But not every price increase is considered price gouging.
“We go through all of them and put them into categories,” explained SC AG spokesman Robert Kittle. “Some we can dismiss right away as not being price gouging, for example, a grocery store had a case of 24 bottles of water that had been $1.69 and was later $2.69. That’s still only about 11 cents a bottle.”
Kittle said they’ve also seen complaints about gas prices which were slightly higher than other places, but wouldn’t be considered price gouging.
“Others we set aside for further investigation. One that stands out is a store in Columbia that was selling a one-liter bottle of hand sanitizer for $90,” he said.
Often, the Attorney General’s office will turn the complaints over to local law enforcement, who will investigate the matter and turn their findings back over to the agency.
Anyone found guilty of price gouging will receive a fine of up to $1,000, up to 30 days in jail, or both, according to the AG’s office.
If you believe you may have been a victim of price gouging, the AG’s Office suggests you email the following to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- The time, place, address, and name of the business.
- The price you paid
- Any prices nearby and get the same information on those businesses
- Pictures that identify the businesses, along with the price
- Your name and contact information
The state’s price gouging law will remain active for as long as the declaration is in effect.