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.
- 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 in Broward.
- 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 June 2017