Atty. Gen. DeWine investigating water price gouging
Thursday, August 14, 2014 12:00 AM
TOLEDO — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said Wednesday that his office has sent letters to 58 businesses to seek substantiation of bottled water prices before, during, and after the Toledo water ban. The office has received 56 related consumer complaints.
“Although Ohio does not currently have a statute that defines what price gouging is, we are working with consumers and businesses to gather all the facts,” DeWine said. “It is possible that the facts will show that no violations occurred, but we want to make sure that the businesses substantiate any price increases and ensure they conformed with Ohio law. Those that cannot substantiate their actions may face legal repercussions.”
On Friday, the Attorney General’s Office sent letters to businesses requesting substantiation for their water prices during the following timeframes: June 1 to August 1; August 2 to August 4 (during the ban); and August 5 after the ban was lifted. The letters also requested documentation detailing what the businesses themselves paid for water during those time periods.
DeWine encouraged consumers to contact his office if they suspected unfairly high prices for bottled water as a result of the Toledo water ban, and in their complaints many consumers explained how much they paid and said they thought the prices were price gouging.
The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has been reviewing information submitted in complaints and other sources for possible signs of unfair, deceptive, or unconscionable practices.
Currently, Ohio does not have a statute defining price gouging.
The state’s Consumer Sales Practices Act prohibits unfair, deceptive, and unconscionable sales practices. A practice could be considered unconscionable if the supplier knew at the time of the transaction that the price was substantially higher than the price at which similar goods or services could be readily obtained. It also could be considered an unfair and deceptive practice to dramatically increase the price of in-stock products based solely in response to current events.
Consumers who suspect price gouging or other unfair business practices should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. Consumers should submit as much information and documentation as possible with their complaints.