Mississippi AG Eyes Up Price-Gougers

Attorney General Jim Hood is looking to clamp down on price-gouging gas station owners who he feels may be taking advantage of consumers during hurricanes, The Sun Herald in Mississippi reported.

It’s against the law to take advantage of a state of emergency by hiking up prices, but Hood discovered before Gustav hit that some gas stations were getting around the law by raising prices ahead of the governor’s emergency declaration, the newspaper reported.

Gov. Haley Barbour declared a state of emergency last Thursday, in advance of Gustav’s landfall.

"We sent people out down there Wednesday," Hood said, "and we saw where prices shot up some places as much as 32 cents a gallon." Hood said his office has reviewed the laws and found no way to charge the offenders. “They anticipated the state of emergency coming in and they jacked their prices up.”

As a result, the newspaper said, Hood plans to propose the same law his office proposed to the Legislature before Katrina, which would allow the Attorney General to declare a state of emergency only for the purpose of enforcing price-gouging laws and preserve the governor’s authority to declare the overall state of emergency needed to deploy resources, seek federal assistance, and streamline local government response.

The current law also limits price-gouging enforcement to counties covered by the emergency, which means business owners in other parts of the state can take advantage of evacuees. Hood has previously said a price-gouging state of emergency would apply statewide.

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