As Hurricane Irma Approaches, Florida Faces Serious Price Gouging
Customers have reported greatly inflated prices for necessary commodities like water, including a case of water with a $100 delivery fee from a third-party vendor on Amazon, the Palm Beach Post reported.
“It’s sickening and disgusting, and we’re not going to have it,” Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi said on Wednesday. Bondi recently opened a price-gouging hotline for residents. (If you see gouging, the number is 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.)
Essentials like food, water, ice, and gasoline are protected under Florida’s price-gouging statute. Authorities, as well as companies like Amazon, are working to crack down on unreasonable charges.
Some 10,000 Floridians reported price-gouging after Hurricane Ike in 2008, while Texans have experienced similar price hikes in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey: extortionate hotel rates, $20 gallons of gas, and $99 cases of water, according to The Washington Post.
According to Money, violators caught price gouging during emergencies, such as Hurricane Irma, may be subject to a $1,000 penalty, and up to $25,000 for multiple violations within a 24-hour period.
The airlines have said the exorbitant fares were the accidental result of algorithms designed to determine supply, demand, and last-minute ticket prices, rather than intentional abuse.
Twitter user Leigh Dow saw flights on Delta Air Lines increase from $547 to $3,200, for example, while Liza Lago saw her American Airlines itinerary from Miami to Houston leap from $193.20 to $1,539.21.
And Twitter user Cindi Avila saw flights from Miami to Denver range from $1,804 to $6,789.
In response, Delta capped its most expensive flights at $399 out of Florida and impacted Caribbean islands. An American Airlines spokesperson said in a statement that direct flights from Florida from September 10 to 13 would be capped at $99 for economy.
United told Travel + Leisure that the flights north of $6,500 were a glitch created when an international plane was added for extra capacity. "It was also a first class Polaris seat that was displayed incorrectly as coach," a United spokesperson said. "It [was] fixed immediately once we saw the error on our website."
Since, United has added six new flights from Florida — all of which are capped at $399 — while also enacting an expanded travel waiver.
JetBlue is one of few domestic airlines that have evaded scrutiny. They immediately instituted a $99 fare cap on direct flights from Florida, before others followed suit.