When disaster strikes, often times opportunists do to. Fortunately Oregon has a law that protects consumers from being charged exorbitant prices for essential consumer goods or services – such as food, shelter, bottled water, fuel and other things that are necessary for the health, safety and welfare of Oregonians – in the wake of certain disasters. This protection is triggered when the Governor declares that an “abnormal disruption of the market” has occurred. This proclamation may be attributed to a event that occurs within the state of Oregon or outside its borders, as long at it effects our citizens.
Under these circumstances the law prohibits merchants and wholesalers from offering or selling essential goods or services in an amount that exceeds 15% or more than the price for which they were sold immediately prior to the Governor’s declaration. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If the price increase is attributable of any of the following, it may not be considered price gouging:
- Additional costs imposed by suppliers
- Added expenses for the business to procure the essential goods or services due to the emergency. For example, the supplies had to be airlifted into an otherwise inaccessible area.
- Increased internal costs or expenses related to the declaration such as overtime pay, additional staff, security, distribution, etc.
- Scheduled price or cost increases unrelated to the abnormal disruption of the market
Under Oregon law, the declaration must include the date and time it was issued. Either the Governor or Legislative Assembly may terminate the declaration at any time, though it will automatically terminate 30 days after the declaration is made. The Governor may also extend it for an additional 30 days if the abnormal disruption persists.
Note: Strictly speaking, price gouging refers only to dramatic price increases that follow an abnormal disruption of the market as described above. If you believe you have been charged an excessive price for a product or service under normal circumstances, please file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline by calling 1-877-877-9392, or using the online consumer complaint form.
If the Governor declares that an abnormal disruption of the market has occurred, the DOJ will issue special instructions for reporting related price gouging.
Applicable State Law: