Price Gouging Calls Pouring In

Complaints about price gouging are keeping two state hotlines busy. More than 1,100 calls came in over the weekend and phones were ringing off the hook most of the Monday.

The complaints range from charging $5 for a bag of ice to more than tripling the cost of a hotel room.

The state is also cautioning people to ask for contractors licenses or occupational licenses as well as proof of insurance before hiring anyone to do repair or cleanup work. They also suggest you don’t pay cash and don’t pay anything until the job is complete.

But nonetheless, the phones are literally ringing non-stop at two state hotlines.

Each operator has their own story of people being taken advantage of during this disaster. One of the operators is Dorothea Syleos from the Attorney General’s Hotline.

"A bag of ice for $2.00 a bag for a 7 lb. bag of ice that is regularly $1.29. Somebody else called in and said they were charging like $5.00 a bag," says Dorothea.

Beverly Dixon of the Dept. of Agriculture and Consumer Services Hotline takes it further.

For the first hour and a half Monday morning the call center got 75 complaints from all over the state, a Daytona Beach hotel, an Orlando gas station and a Tampa convenience store.

Joann Carrin is from the Attorney General’s Office. Some hotels appear to be especially bad, telling callers they have only two rooms and jacking up prices after guests check in.

“The most egregious was a mother with five children who was kicked out of her hotel because she was not willing to pay the fee that they decided to start charging the day after she arrived."

Violators face a $1,000 fine for each instance, up to $25,000 a day.

Terry McElroy of the Dept. of Agriculture says the complaints run the gamut.

"We don’t believe that people ought to be paying any extra for these basic necessities, over and above what they were the day before."

Dozens of investigators are in the field checking complaints as quickly as possible. In the worst cases, grand theft criminal charges could be filed.

Here are two numbers to help you with price gouging complaints: 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-646-0444