Tennessee Attorney General Cautions Tennesseans To Be Alert To Price Gouging

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper is cautioning consumers to be alert to potential price gouging following deadly storms and tornadoes that occurred in West and Southern portions of Middle Tennessee Monday.

Attorney General Cooper, in conjunction with the Division of Consumer Affairs, reminds consumers and business owners to be aware of potential price gouging. The price gouging act specifically cites that it is illegal to set prices that are grossly in excess of the price generally charged immediately prior to the disaster.

The price gouging act is triggered when a disaster is declared by the state or by the federal government.

Another law, however, makes it illegal to “unreasonably [raise] prices or unreasonably [restrict] supplies or essential goods, commodities or services in direct response to a natural disaster,” regardless of whether the event occurred in Tennessee. Penalties for violations of the act are up to $1,000 per violation. Additionally, the Attorney General in conjunction with the Division of Consumer Affairs can request that a court issue injunctions and order civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation. The State can also seek refunds for consumers.

“During times of crisis most Tennesseans and Tennessee businesses do what is right and work to rebuild and heal the community,” Attorney General Cooper said. “However, there may be a minority that seek to take advantage of those trying to clean up and repair storm damage. While you may feel a sense of urgency to quickly make home repairs and clear debris, please try to ensure you are using a reputable contractor.”

In addition to home repair, some may need gasoline and emergency supplies and services. These offerings are also subject to the price gouging laws. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008, the Office of the Attorney General took action against dozens of gas stations for violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act regarding inflated gas prices.

Problems that sometimes arise after a natural disaster include price gouging (in which a business unreasonably raises rates on essential goods and services during a State of Emergency or in response to a disaster), as well as fraud in the areas of home repair and debris removal.

“The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance urges consumers to report suspected price gouging by filing a complaint with the Division of Consumer Affairs,” Deputy Commissioner and Acting Consumer Affairs Director Steve Majchrzak said. “Please be prepared to provide specifics – including the location of the business and the price charged, to facilitate the reporting process. Complaints can be filed online at http://tn.gov/consumer/PriceGougeCmplnt.shtml or by phone at (1-800) 342-8385.”

The Department of Commerce and Insurance urges homeowners to take the time to verify with the department’s Board for Licensing Contractors before signing any contracts. Commerce and Insurance’s license database is found at http://verify.tn.gov/. The site provides free licensing information for dozens of professions – including home improvement contractors. The Board for Licensing Contractors also has a page of tips for consumers at http://1.usa.gov/GYSKNP.

General Cooper and Deputy Commissioner Majchrzak offer the following tips to avoid becoming a con artist’s victim:

*Avoid high-pressure sales tactics to urging you to act quickly before signing a contact. Take time to make a good decision.

*Do not pay money upfront before the job is finished.

*Ask questions and get references from people you trust before hiring someone to do work for you.

*Get the whole deal in writing - if a contractor promises you something get it in writing – you can add it to the contract language and have you and the contractor initial it.

*Take photos of your property damage right away, during the course of the repair work and completion photos. You should also take photos of any repair work you believe was not done correctly.




Justin Robinson State Farm Celebrates Grand Opening Feb. 2

Justin Robinson State Farm will celebrate a grand opening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 11 a.m. at 1459 North Mack Smith Road.  The Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce will co-host this event with Justin Robinson State Farm.  Mr. Robinson said he has made it his life goal to serve the East Ridge and Chattanooga community with his ... (click for more)

BlueCross Taps Lawrence As Director of Ancillary, Behavioral Contracting

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee selected Scot Lawrence as director of ancillary and behavioral health contracting. In this role, Mr. Lawrence is responsible for defining and directing state-wide contracting strategies and negotiations for ancillary providers, including lab, home health, skilled nursing, and dialysis providers, as well as behavioral health providers such ... (click for more)

School Board Votes To Issue RFPs For Private School Bus Service; Allows Independent Drivers To Add 20 Routes

The Hamilton County School Board voted unanimously to issue a Request-for-Proposals (RFP) to private bus companies at a special-called session early  Saturday  afternoon.   The vote came at the end of a two-day strategy session where the school board has confronted a list of challenges but the busing question, spurred by the tragic bus wreck in November ... (click for more)

3 People Shot Early Saturday Morning On East 3rd Street

Three people were shot on East 3rd Street early Saturday morning. They were identified as Countess Clemons, 24, Kezia Jackson, 23, and Dutchess Lykes, 26.   The Chattanooga Police Department responded at 2:40 a.m. to a person(s) shot call at a local hospital. All three victims were transported to the hospital via a personally-owned vehicle.   All three ... (click for more)

A Light Rain Began To Fall - And Response (2)

Around noon Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th President of the most powerful nation on Earth after a long and sometimes bitter campaign where 17 GOP candidates of his own party and two of the opposing party competed for the honor.   Thousands rejoiced in the Washington D.C. streets while policemen who had come along with national guardsmen pushed ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Jumoke’s Thuggery Ends

Jumoke Johnson, the most notorious criminal in Chattanooga’s recent history, was killed by a rain of bullets in the 2100 block of East 12 th Street at little after 8 o’clock Friday night and for the many of us who have kept up with the 23-year-old, you wonder how he ever lasted this long. He was aptly proclaimed as the “most dangerous man” to ever have been sentenced in Chattanooga’s ... (click for more)