Alabama Attorney General Troy King has warned unscrupulous contractors and businesses that he will take action against those who seek to profit illegally at the expense of Alabamians who suffer damage from Hurricane Katrina.
He cautioned consumers to be wary of those who would further victimize them through home repair frauds. He further noted that state law protects consumers from price gouging during a state of emergency declared by the Governor.
“The good people of Alabama stand together in times of crisis, and we have laws to protect against those who would profiteer and take advantage of their fellow-citizens,” said King. “It is despicable and against the law to charge outrageous amounts for necessities that people must have in times of emergency. While this storm may inflict damage on our state, we will not tolerate allowing anyone to take advantage of and inflict further harm on the people of Alabama. My office will closely monitor this storm and we will continue to pray for those in harms way.”
The state law that prohibits “unconscionable pricing” of items for sale or rent comes into play when the Governor has declared an official state of emergency. Although what constitutes an unconscionable price is not specifically set forth in state law, a price that is 25 percent or more than the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days–unless the increase can be attributed to a reasonable cost– is a prima facie case of unconscionable pricing. The penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 per violation, and those determined to have willfully and continuously violated this law may be prohibited from doing business in Alabama.
Home repair fraud reportedly remains a persistent and serious problem in Alabama, and it is a particular threat during times of natural disaster.
King urges consumers and officials to report any problems of alleged fraud or illegal price gouging to his Family Protection Unit, which oversees consumer complaints and other issues regarding the security and well-being of Alabama’s families
King’s Family Protection Unit can be reached by calling toll-free to 1-800-230-9485, by visiting the unit’s Web page at www.familyprotection.alabama.gov., or by writing to 11 South Union Street, Montgomery, Alabama 36130. The Office of Consumer Affairs may be contacted directly by calling 1-800-392-5658 or though the Attorney General’s main Web page at www.ago.alabama.gov.
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