Virginia’s price gouging protections in effect under Ian State of Emergency

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Price gouging protections are in effect as Virginians stock up on emergency supplies.

It’s one of several tools triggered by Governor Glenn Youngkin’s State of Emergency Declaration announced on Wednesday to prepare for Hurricane Ian. The order frees up funding and gives the state more flexibility to mobilize resources.

“While we recognize that the storm track is still uncertain, I nevertheless encourage all Virginians and visitors to make a plan, have supplies on hand, and follow official sources for the latest forecast information and guidance,” Youngkin said in a statement on Wednesday evening.

During emergency events, state law prohibits vendors from charging “unconscionable prices” for necessities like water, ice, food, generators, batteries, home repair supplies, and tree removal services, among other things.

According to Attorney General Jason Miyares, a price is considered “unconscionable” if it “grossly exceeds” the cost charged for the same item during the ten days immediately prior to the disaster. 

“The law gives us the tools we need to go after those bad corporate actors that are trying to take advantage of the situation when the governor declares a State of Emergency,” Miyares said in a brief interview on Thursday. “We just encourage Virginians to be diligent, be safe and, if there is price gouging going on, let my office know.” 

On Thursday evening, Miyares said he wasn’t aware of any complaints but he expects some could come in on Friday and over the weekend. He said Virginians can report violations to the Consumer Protection Section of his office by calling 800-552-9963 or by completing an online form.

State officials are taking a number of other steps to prepare for Ian following Youngkin’s emergency order.

“I applaud Governor Youngkin for declaring a State of Emergency a couple of days in advance,” Virginia Senator Tim Kaine said during a virtual press conference on Thursday. “The track of this storm could change but, right now, the worry that I would have would be excessive rain, including in some places that have already been hit pretty hard.” 

Virginia State Police Search & Recover Team divers pre-deployed on Thursday based on projected rainfall patterns, vulnerable flood zones and storm surge. In an email, VSP Spokesperson Corinne Geller said, because the remnants of Ian are projected to hit Southwest Virginia, several divers are staging in their Wytheville Field Division for any swift water rescue needs.

“All available state police personnel are on standby for routine and emergency deployment across the Commonwealth and for the duration of the storm’s presence,” Geller said.

The emergency order also put the Virginia National Guard on alert for possible severe weather response operations.

VNG Spokesperson Cotton Puryear said they plan to stage approximately 50 soldiers and airmen at key locations in Roanoke, Richmond, and Virginia Beach. He said they are prepared for high mobility transportation and debris reduction assistance.

“All personnel are expected to be ready for missions by Friday afternoon,” Puryear said.

Puryear said more personnel are prepared to respond if needed. He said VNG is not sending anyone to assist in Florida at this time.

Jason Elmore, a spokesperson with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, said a team of 14 left for Jackson County, Florida on Wednesday to assist with logistics and special operations.

On Thursday morning, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis announced two separate Virginia teams were deploying to Southwest Florida to begin life-saving missions. The teams deployed out of Fort Lauderdale to Fort Myers. 

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