What is price gouging?

Jason S -

The price gouging complaints received by Consumer Affairs are all individually evaluated. Price increases are generally considered by evaluating the increases of costs to fuel, the pre-existing price agreements, and increases in costs imposed by suppliers. If it appears that price gouging may have occurred, the complaint may be reviewed and/or investigated by the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division for potential violations of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act. The Attorney General could seek a temporary restraining order, temporary injunction, or permanent injunction, seek civil penalties up to $1,000 per violation, and/or negotiate and accept an assurance of voluntary compliance

The Consumer Protection Division reviews price gouging complaints under two different statutes: The first, the Price Gouging Act of 2002, only applies during periods in which the Governor has declared an abnormal economic disruption and prohibits charging “any other person a price for the following goods or services [unless the order is limited only to specific types of goods] that is grossly in excess of the price generally charged for the same or similar goods or services in the usual course of business:

(A)  Consumer food items;

(B)  Repair or construction services;

(C)  Emergency supplies;

(D)  Medical supplies;

(E)  Building materials;

(F)  Gasoline;

(G)  Transportation, freight, and storage services; or

(H)  Housing.”

Second, even if no abnormal economic disruption is declared, it is a violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act for any person to “[u]nreasonably rais[e] prices or unreasonably restrict[] supplies of essential goods, commodities or services in direct response to a crime, act of terrorism, war, or natural disaster, regardless of whether such crime, act of terrorism, war, or natural disaster occurred in the state of Tennessee.” Given the breadth of the items covered by these and other provisions, consumers are encouraged to file a complaint regarding any suspected price gouging.  Doing so helps to ensure that the Division can evaluate the complaint for further appropriate action and help protect the citizens of Tennessee. 


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