Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi Thursday had a stern warning for people and businesses who already are driving prices high in her state while people are trying to flee in advance of Hurricane Irma: "If you're a bad business, we're coming after you."
"You cannot inflate prices during the time of a hurricane for essential commodities, food, water, fuel, etc.," Bondi told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" program. "Generators. What I've been seeing is a lot of water complaints. I think initially we had 300 water complaints."
Thousands of calls have come in since Bondi's office set up a hotline, 1-866-9NO-SCAM [1-866-966-7226], and the attorney general had particular ire against Chevron gas stations in South Florida, noting that when staffers arrived in her office at 8 a.m. Thursday, there were 45 complaints against the company.
"Chevron, if you're watching me now, you need to call us and tell us why your prices are inflated in South Florida because in Tallahassee they aren't," Bondi said. "In South Florida, they're high and there is no excuse for that ... if I'm wrong and Chevron is not doing this, call me and tell me or fix it."
In Florida, price gouging carries a $1,000 fine per instance, up to $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a single 24-hour period, but Bondi warned there will be further repercussions from her, personally.
"I will be saying your name all over national television and telling people not to go to your business ever again, if you're stealing from Floridians and taking advantage of Floridians in a time of need," she insisted. "It is not just about the money, it's about commodities that are helping to keep people alive, keep their children safe."
Bondi said there also have been several reports about high prices with airlines, but they fall under the control of the FAA and the Department of Transportation.
However, she said, many of the airlines are now coming together to help, and so are many companies.
"Home Depot called me and said 'what do I need,'" said Bondi. "They ran out of plywood. They're having trucks coming in, delivering to Home Depot. In one day in Florida, 355,000 pieces of plywood were sold. Floridians are listening."
As of now, Bondi said, her immediate concern is making it possible to get people out of Florida.
"We have so many students down here at the University of Miami trying to get flights out," she said. "We have to charge them a reasonable cost. People won't leave without their pets. The airlines for the most part have stepped up to the plate."
She also credited Wal-Mart, in addition to Home Depot, and said the EPA has helped, through a ruling under the Clean Air Act, that blended fuel can be sold to help keep gas prices down and to bring more fuel into the state.
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