Higher gas prices do not equate price gouging, says attorney general

SPARTANBURG, SC (WSPA) – Folks in South Carolina have been dealing with gas prices on the rise in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

It’s ahead of one of the busiest travel weekends of the year, as drivers hit the road for Labor Day.

State leaders say these higher gas prices aren’t price gouging, but drivers should still report their suspicions at the pump.

“My husband called and said you might want to fill up before you come home,” said driver Erica Spencer. “It’s just unreal how fast it’s gone up.”

AAA Carolinas says they’re the highest they’ve been all year averaging $2.52 a gallon nationwide.

That’s up 17 cents from just a week ago before Hurricane Harvey made landfall along the gulf coast.

South Carolina’s average is $2.39, and 7 News crews have seen prices as high as $2.59 in the Upstate Friday.

“Price gouging is where a gas station takes advantage takes advantage basically of the public in a time of need,” said Chad Freeman, AAA Carolinas Travel Sales Manager.

The attorney general says it’s not the same as these recent cases of higher gas prices.

“While it’s true you’re paying more at the pump, the simple rise in the price of gas does not automatically equal price gouging under South Carolina law,” said South Carolina State Attorney General Alan Wilson. “There are laws against price gouging that take effect under very specific circumstances in this state.”

Wilson says price fluctuations are a normal part of the economy.

“A lot of times run ups in price are justified by our free market and our competitive system,” said Wilson.

The system is now being closely watched as drivers hope the prices get better soon.

“Just the low income families knowing gas is getting higher on everybody,” said Spencer.

“I believe the further we go into the weekend, the better the prices will get,” said Freeman. “We’re trying not to let people panic.”

He said people should not be concerned with gas shortages because there’s a higher than normal gas supply, and its panicked consumers who help create shortages.

The attorney general says people who suspect price gouging should report it and do the following to help the investigation:

  1. Note the time, place, address, and name of the gas station
  2. Note the price you paid
  3. Note any prices nearby and get the same information on those stations
  4. Take pictures that identify the station, along with the price
  5. Provide your name and contact information

Please email any examples or documentation to pricegouging@scag.gov or call 803-737-3953 and leave a message if you have witnessed a likely violation.