Attorney General Ashley Moody celebrated some successes in the state’s latest battle against price gouging.
Normally a practice seen during hurricane season, the onset of coronavirus and supply chain shortfalls has created opportunity for scammers.
On Tuesday, Moody described how the state has fought back.
“Today marks three weeks since I activated Florida’s Price Gouging Hotline ((866) 9NO-SCAM) and already we are getting results for Floridians,” Moody said.
The goal, said Moody, is to “deter price gouging in real time.”
“While my Rapid Response Team is contacting businesses, securing refunds and working with online platforms to remove outrageous posts, we are also issuing subpoenas and preserving evidence to advance our price gouging investigations,” Moody said.
The focus has been “exorbitant price increases on essential commodities,” and to that end, Moody touted successes.
From 1,210 “consumer contacts,” her office has made “more than 1,900 referrals and contacts to merchants about allegations of price gouging, refunds and scams.”
A total of $79,000 in refunds has been secured, with 56 subpoenas issued.
Over 100 posts on online platforms have been deactivated for “outrageous prices.”
Penalties for inflating prices on hand sanitizer, cleaning goods, and personal protective equipment are statutorily steep, though lack prison time.
“Violators of the price gouging statute are subject to civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period,” Moody’s office asserted.
Moody’s office is targeting other scammers as well.
Moody, Florida’s three U.S. attorneys and state-level attorneys are committed to stopping scammers who want to take advantage of the pandemic for personal profit, according to a press release sent Thursday.
Officials have identified phishing scams purporting to be official government health websites including the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Others offer fake COVID-19 cures.
“We will not allow anyone to take advantage of Floridians trying to protect their health and the safety of their families during this global crisis,” Moody said. “We are united with Florida’s U.S. Attorneys in our commitment to pursue scammers exploiting this pandemic to rip-off our citizens, and we will continue to work diligently to ensure anyone targeting Floridians during this state of emergency is brought to justice.”