Tropical Cyclone Gita took quite a toll on the residents of the Territory. Life for some is difficult with some residents still having to make do without electricity or water. Supplies are short, demand is high, and the temptation for some unscrupulous sellers and retailers to raise prices for those supplies or services is at a fever pitch.
But did you know that raising prices for good and/or services during a declared state of emergency is against the laws of American Samoa? And that those sellers and retailers that raise their prices are actually committing a crime?
This is considered price gouging and consumer protection laws of American Samoa prevent just that.
So, what exactly does the law say?
Well, for thirty (30) days following the declaration of a state of emergency, sellers and retailers cannot sell certain goods and supplies at a price that is more than ten percent (10%) above the price charged right before the state of emergency was declared.
The same goes for any person or business that sells repair or reconstruction services or other clean-up services for a period of one hundred and eighty (180) days after a state of emergency is declared.
What types of goods or services are covered?
Here is a list of goods and services, divided into categories, that fall under the price gouging law:
“Consumer Food Item” includes goods intended for use for food, drink, confection, or condiment by a person or animal.”
“Repair or Reconstruction Services” includes services performed by any person for repairs to residential or commercial property of any type that is damaged as a result of a disaster.
“Emergency Supplies” includes, but is not limited to, water, flashlights, radios, batteries, candles, blankets, soaps, diapers, temporary shelters, tape, toiletries, plywood, nails, and hammers.
“Medical Supplies” includes, but is not limited to, prescription and non-prescription medications, bandages, gauze, isopropyl alcohol, and anti-bacterial products.
“Building Materials” means lumber, construction tools, windows, and anything else used in the building or rebuilding of property.
“Gasoline” means any fuel used to power a motor vehicle or power tool.
“Housing” means any rental housing or dwelling units leased on a month-to-month term.
What do we do when we know of a seller or retailer that is suspected of price gouging?
Please report it to the Office of the Attorney General right away. The Bureau of Consumer Protection has already received reports of suspected price gouging around the island and our enforcement teams have been dispatched to investigate these reports. You can either call our office at (684) 633-4163 or email the Director of Consumer Protection at firstname.lastname@example.org to report suspected cases of price gouging.
Please be sure to provide accurate information regarding the location of the business suspected of price gouging, the name of that business, and, if possible, a list of items you bought that were purchased for a higher price than what is normal for that business.