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State price gouging law in effect

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S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster’s declaration of a state of emergency on Friday put South Carolina’s law against price gouging into effect.

Friday’s declaration of a national emergency in response to the novel coronavirus would have also activated the law, according to a news release from the state attorney general’s office.

The law says it is illegal to “rent or sell or offer to rent or sell a commodity at an unconscionable price” while emphasizing: “A price increase that reflects the usual and customary seasonal fluctuation in the price of the subject essential commodity or the rental or lease of a dwelling unit or self-storage facility is not a violation of this section.”

“We can expect normal price increases, but we may see businesses and individuals looking to unfairly take advantage of the situation through price gouging of things like hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, and other commodities as defined by the statute,” S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson said in the release. “By our law, that’s a criminal violation and an unfair trade practice.

“We wish to emphasize, as we have seen in the past, that price gouging under the current law is difficult to prove, even substantial price increases. What might seem large to the public may not be illegal in court.”

Those who suspect price gouging are encouraged to note the name of the business involved along with the time, place, address and price paid. Note any prices nearby and take pictures, and email the documentation, along with contact information, to pricegouging@scag.gov, or call 803-737-3953.  

Convicted violators of the law face fines of up to $1,000, up to 30 days in jail, or both.

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