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Price gouging can land Mississippians behind bars



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When demand for a product goes up, the price can rise, too, particularly if supplies are low. The fewer widgets there are, the more each one costs.

Under normal circumstances, rising prices are based on supply and demand, but we’re not living under normal circumstances. Mississippi has declared a state of emergency, so rising prices could fall under the state’s price gouging laws.

In Mississippi, investigating price gouging falls to the Attorney General’s Office. According to the law, during an emergency, pricing for goods and services “shall not exceed the prices ordinarily charged for comparable goods or services in the same market area at or immediately before the declaration of a state of emergency or local emergency.”

“The main thing retailers need to know is this they cannot take advantage of the emergency. They cannot take advantage of people’s desperation by inflating prices and preying on customers,” Mississippi College School of Law professor Matt Steffey told WAPT.

Attorney General Lynn Fitch said her office has received dozens of calls from Mississippians alleging price gouging of essentials such as toilet paper, water and hand sanitizer, WAPT reports, as well as protective items needed by first responders and hospitals. As a first step, her office sends cease and desist letters to the offenders but will take other actions to stop the practice.

Price gouging in Mississippi is punishable by criminal penalties ranging from a misdemeanor (up to $1,000 and 6 months in jail) to a felony (1 to 5 years in prison and/or fines of up to $5,000).

If you suspect price gouging, take a photo, making sure it’s date and time stamped. Email it to providing details of where the photo was taken. Make sure you include how you can be reached. You can also call the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office at 601-359-3680.

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