Florida Retailers Fined


Florida regulators levied $86,000 in civil fines against the owners of 53 convenience stores, accusing them of price gouging after the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The highest fine, $10,000, was levied against a Pensacola store that hiked prices by 50 cents a gallon after hijacked airliners crashed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Most of the others raised prices by 10 cents to 14 cents a gallon and face $500 fines, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, according to Reuters.

The retailers also must pay refunds to customers who have receipts showing they were charged the unlawfully inflated prices. "The message here is that if you exploit our citizens in an emergency, you will pay a price," Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson said.

Florida's anti-price-gouging statute prohibits extreme price increases for essential commodities during emergencies. It takes effect when the governor declares a state of emergency, as Gov. Jeb Bush did in September, the report said.

State regulators got hundreds of gouging complaints after the September attacks and subpoenaed records to determine which price increases were justified. The statute allows retailers to raise prices if they can show it was justified by increased costs they incurred.
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