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S.C. attorney general puts price gouging statute in effect due to pipeline disruption

Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 12:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson today declared an abnormal disruption in the market following the cyber attack of the Colonial Pipeline and therefore the state’s price gouging statute is in effect.

“I’m urging everyone to be careful and be patient,” Attorney General Wilson said. “We hope this gas shortage will last just a few days, but we must be wary of individuals looking to unfairly take advantage of the situation through price gouging.”

According to state law, price gouging constitutes a criminal violation and an unfair trade practice.

“I urge citizens to remain vigilant and notify my office immediately if you believe you have witnessed or are aware of price gouging. Please email any examples or documentation to pricegouging@scag.gov; go to our website at www.scag.gov to fill out a form to report price gouging, or call 803-737-3953 if you have witnessed a likely violation,” AG Wilson said.

The price gouging law (SC 39-5-145) is a general prohibition of unconscionable prices during times of disaster. Price gougers can be charged for excessive pricing, a misdemeanor offense punishable with a $1,000 fine and/or 30 days in jail.

The portion of the price gouging statute that gives the Attorney General the authority to declare an abnormal disruption in the market is SC 39-5-145 (D) and (E), which states:

(D) When notice of an abnormal disruption of the market is given, it is unlawful and a violation of this article for a person or his agent or employee to: (1) rent or sell or offer to rent or sell a commodity at an unconscionable price in any area of this State where there is an abnormal disruption in the market; or (2) impose unconscionable prices for the rental or lease of a dwelling unit, including a motel or hotel unit, or other temporary lodging, or self-storage facility in any area of this State where there is an abnormal disruption in the market. (E) When notice of an abnormal disruption of the market is given, the prohibitions in this section are in effect for fifteen days unless notice of an abnormal disruption in the market is earlier retracted or renewed.

The Attorney General may renew a notice of abnormal disruption of the market for an unlimited number of successive fifteen-day periods.

View the full price gouging statute here.

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is urging residents not to run to fill their gas tanks while a pipeline shutdown is causing gas prices to edge toward $3 per gallon.

“There is no need to rush to top off your gas tanks or hoard gas,” the governor posted on Twitter. “The pipeline is expected to resume operations by the end of the week.”

McMaster said because the state is currently under a state of emergency, transportation waivers and price gauging laws are in effect to “facilitate fuel delivery and protect consumers.”

AAA says the national average for a gallon of regular gasoline was $2.98, one cent shy of the most expensive gas price since November 2014.

That’s a jump of nearly two full cents over Monday’s average, AAA said.

But in South Carolina, the average price per gallon remained at $2.74.

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