By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said Monday afternoon his office was ready to enforce the state’s price-gouging law if Gov. Phil Bryant deems it appropriate to invoke it.
Monday evening, Bryant issued an order banning price gouging in south Mississippi during Isaac.
The order applies to all counties through which Interstate 20 passes, and all counties south of there.
Under state law, Bryant must call a state of emergency invoking the law before Hood’s office can act. The prior state of emergency called by the governor because of the possibility that Isaac might slam the Mississippi Gulf Coast as a hurricane had not included the price-gouging statute.
“The governor must invoke the necessary language from the Mississippi emergency management laws,” said Hood, who held an availability with the press to answer questions about the issue Monday.
Jan Schaefer, a spokeswoman for Hood, said at the news conference the AG’s office already had 20 phone calls from people complaining about price gouging – mostly related to gasoline prices and one complaint about a motel.
In a statement, Bryant said, “Price-gouging is something to be taken seriously. Mississippians, especially those responding to the threat of emergency, deserve to be treated with integrity and fairness by businesses, and I fully expect businesses that operate in this state to act accordingly.”
Hood said he believes more merchants will understand how the price-gouging law works and expects fewer instances of price gouging than there were with Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
When the law is invoked, Hood said retailers can increase prices if their costs increase.
“Retailers just have to be careful to keep their profit margin consistent with what they were getting prior to the proclamation allowing us to enforce the statute,” Hood said.
Hood said people should record any instances of perceived price gouging on their cell phones, as well as any offers of home repairs if needed after the storm.Hood said people can call his office a 1-800-281-4418 to file a complaint or go to the web site at www.agjimhood.com for more information.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.