What can be done about price gouging after a hurricane?

| 10/04/2019

I saw your column on dealing with looting after a hurricane, and my question is: What protections are in place to prevent any price gouging?

Ask Auntie, CNS Local Life, Caymanian status

Auntie’s answer: Anyone making money off other people’s misery is truly reprehensible. I can understand that certain circumstances may make it unavoidable to raise prices after a natural disaster, such as the increased cost of transporting, delivering and safely storing goods. However, hiking the price tag because people have become more desperately in need of some items is shameful.

After Hurricane Ivan, when this practice did occur, a law was enacted to prevent price gouging if disaster should strike again. An official with Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) explained that the Price Gouging Control (Emergency Circumstances) Law becomes valid after a state of emergency is declared following a natural disaster.

Section 4(1) of the law says in part, “Upon and after a declaration of a state of emergency in the Islands by the Governor in accordance with the Emergency Powers Law (2006 Revision)…no person, his agent or employee shall rent or sell or offer to rent or sell at an unconscionable price any commodity…” This section also details what is meant by unconscionable.

However, the law does allow for “reasonable” price increases, but specifies, “The burden of proof to show that any increase in the price or charge of a commodity is reasonable and not unconscionable is upon the person accused of such increase.”

The seriousness attached to price gouging is made clear by the associated $100,000 fine for anyone convicted of this offence.

In addition, the law set out the establishment of the Price Gouging Control Commission which can receive written complaints of price gouging and has the power to investigate the circumstances of the case. If it finds there is reason to believe that someone has engaged in price gouging, the commission shall submit a report of its inquiry along with supporting evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions.

While price gouging is not specifically mentioned in the National Hazard Management Plan, the HMCI official explained that it would be monitored by the Economic Continuity section of Support Services under the National Emergency Operations Centre.

The law mentioned above can be found on the CNS Library

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Comments (1)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Quick answer. Nothing can stop them. You cannot stop someone from being an a$$hole.
    However, with social media these days, it will be hard to get away with for long!!!!!

    The public will fix that with their feet.
    There. Quicker answer than Auntie