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GOV. HENRY, ATTORNEY GENERAL EDMONDSON WARNS AGAINS GOUGING AS RITA LOOMS

09-22-2005

Oklahoma City - Gov. Brad Henry and Attorney General Drew Edmondson today cautioned gas stations and other retailers across Oklahoma that the State of Oklahoma will crack down on incidents of price-gouging as the nation braces for another potentially devastating hurricane.

With Hurricane Rita barreling toward the Gulf Coast, the Governor and Attorney General declared that Oklahoma has a 'zero tolerance" policy on price-gouging President Bush's Sept. 5 disaster declaration for Oklahoma triggered the state's Emergency Price Stabilization Act.

"It is unconscionable to wring profits from misfortune and tragedy," Gov. Henry said.

"The State of Oklahoma will not abide people using the potential for disaster as an excuse to artificially spike prices at the pump.  Predatory pricing is opposed to the core of Oklahoma values, and it will not be tolerated.  Price-gouging will be met with the full force of the law."

His sentiments were echoed by Attorney General Edmondson.

"With the damage anticipated from this new storm, we are already seeing a jump in gasoline prices, and that is expected to continue.  We have investigators in the field and we will continue to examine reports of inflated prices," he said.

Oklahoma's price-gouging law stipulates that prices cannot jump more than 10 percent above the price charged immediately before the declaration, unless the spike is caused by non-emergency factors and does not result in a profit increase.

"The act is designed to stop the unscrupulous business owner from purposefully inflating prices to profit from an emergency or disaster," Edmondson said.  "We've received almost 200 reports regarding gasoline prices, but none have risen as yet to the level of gouging."

The law applies not only to gasoline, but to any goods, services, dwelling units or storage space.

"One are of particular interest is lodging," Edmondson said.  "As people flee the storm, they will need places to stay and hotel rooms may be in high demand, especially in southern Oklahoma.  We will be diligent in our enforcement of inflated room prices.