After the Event
- Many times following a disaster, residents will report alleged price gouging and/or fraud. Once a state of emergency is declared it is illegal to raise prices for essential goods to a level which grossly exceeds the average prices charged for these same goods in the 30-day period prior to the state of emergency.
- Broward County conducts a survey each year during hurricane season for the purpose of determining average pricing of essential commodities (including building supplies). This information may be utilized by the agency investigating allegations of price gouging. View Survey.
- If you feel you have been cheated, document the incident and report it as soon as possible to:
Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services Help Line 800-HELP-FLA (800-435-7352) to report price gouging or Florida Attorney General 1-866-966-7226.
Tips For Avoiding Price Gouging
- Insist on a receipt when purchasing supplies.
- Plan ahead. Prepare for a disaster before it happens and purchase basic supplies before the storm.
- Be sure the home repair business has an occupational license and that the contractor has a current Florida State or Broward County contractor's license.
- Make certain that all arrangements including the completion date, material costs and permit fees are written into a contract.
- Never make a complete payment until all work is completed and you have been given releases of all liens by the contractor or business working on your property.
- Under Florida law, you have a three-day buyer's right to cancel a home improvement or repair contract which involves financing.
- Do not be tempted by the promise of a guaranteed home repair loan in exchange for an up-front fee (“advance fee loan”). These fees can be substantial and there is a chance you will never see this money again. While legitimate lending institutions may require a processing fee, they will not guarantee loan approvals or promise that bad credit will not stand in the way of an individual's chance to obtain a loan.
- When dealing with contractors offering to help clean up from the storm, instant estimates, door-to-door salesmen and cash only or pay-up-front offers should be considered red flags to homeowners.
Door to Door Sales
- Home solicitation sales over $25, such as home improvement financing contracts, have a three-day buyer's right to cancel.
- A home solicitation is any sale which takes place in a location other than the seller's fixed place of business.
Water Testing Scams
- Be wary of water testing or water treatment offers following a disaster. Dishonest businesses may misrepresent the effects of a natural disaster on the water supply. Instead of relying on a sales pitch, follow public advisories that are issued by such authorities as the Broward County Environmental Protection and Growth Management Department and the State of Florida Health Department.
- Service stations are required to post gasoline prices on a primary sign.
- If the price advertised on the primary sign is different from the price at the pump then a supplemental sign must be placed on top of the pump detailing the price of the higher-priced fuel.
- In the wake of a disaster, con artists often solicit funds for charities which do not exist. Charitable organizations are required to be registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
- If you have questions about a charitable organization, check its registration with the Division of Consumer Services by calling 1-800-435-7352.
Updated April 2015