CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is warning residents to be on guard against price hikes on supplies after a chemical leak that placed parts of nine counties under a do not use water order.
"We want people to know that price gouging laws apply not just to water, but other supplies people need to stay clean, eat and stay healthy,” Morrisey said.
Morrisey says residents need to check prices on supplies like water jugs, hand sanitizer, baby wipes, paper or plastic plates, plastic silverware and ready made meals.
Nine counties are under a state of emergency due to the chemical leak. Morrisey says price gouging laws go into effect when a state of emergency is declared.
“The law is pretty clear about what constitutes price gouging, and we will be vigilant in protecting consumers from those who seek to take advantage of their neighbors during a time of crisis,” Morrisey continued. “Many of the water stations currently set up in the region require consumers bring their own jugs. People shouldn’t have to pay artificially inflated prices to buy a jug in order to get the water their family desperately needs," Morrisey said.
According to Morrisey, the laws prohibit any person, business or contractor from inflating by more than 10 percent the price of any good or service that is deemed to be vital and necessary to the health, safety and welfare of consumers. Price gouging laws stay in effect until the state of emergency is lifted or 30 days, whichever is longer.
Morrisey said if people must pay inflated prices to buy items they need to stay safe and healthy, they should make sure they get a receipt. If the consumer opts to file a complaint, he or she should attach a copy of the receipt to the complaint.
“Receipts are not necessary in order to file a complaint, but they do help our office in tracking offenders,” Morrisey said.
The office will keep its price gouging hotline operational throughout the weekend and duration of the state of emergency. The hotline number is 800-368-8808.
Residents can also file complaints on Facebook (agwestv) or Twitter (@westvirginiag).
“Our Office was busy with phone calls on Friday and as the situation continues, I expect the number of calls to continue to climb,” Morrisey said. “We don’t want anyone to think it is OK to take advantage of others by raising prices of any item that consumers need right now, be it water, ice or plastic silverware. We will not tolerate that and will use every resource to track down anyone who attempts to use this crisis for financial gain," Morrisey said.