NEW ORLEANS — Reports of people rushing to grocery stores and hoarding essential items recently because of concerns about the coronavirus have been all over social media.
As customers rush to hoard essential items like hand sanitizer, toilet paper, food, soap, and bottled water, Louisiana's Attorney General Jeff Landry wanted to remind people that the state's emergency declaration puts price gouging laws in effect.
“If consumers suspect price gouging, they should report it to their local law enforcement agencies,” said Landry. “We do not want people or businesses to illegally take advantage of this crisis.”
Raising the prices of goods and services more than what they costed before a state of emergency has been declared is price gouging, an email from the Attorney General said.
Once a state of emergency is declared in an area, a price-gouging ban takes effect there. The ban can remain in effect up to 30 days after the state of emergency ends.
People or companies that price gouge can be punished. It's a crime punishable by a $500 fine, six months in prison, or both.
But if the price gouging causes property damage of more than $5,000 or serious bodily injury, the crime is punishable by up to five years of hard labor, 21 years if the violation causes death.
If people see price gouging they should call the police and share as much information as possible, including the merchant's name, address and phone number, the price and receipt of the item or service.