Kentucky is on notice that price-gouging businesses and scam artists are preying on flood victims, and it will not be tolerated. Gov. Steve Beshear declared a state of emergency in the wake of the recent severe thunderstorms and flooding. He also triggered the price-gouging provisions at the request of Attorney General Jack Conway. The provisions will remain in place for 30 days.
The recent storms have resulted in flooding and widespread damage across the central and eastern parts of Kentucky.
“Be assured, my office stands ready to investigate and prosecute anyone who seeks excessive profits during emergency situations. Those who have fallen victim to these storms should not be victimized again by unscrupulous price-gougers and scam artists,” said Attorney General Conway.
The emergency declaration issued by Beshear triggers several consumer protection measures that will remain in place for 30 days. Among them, it empowers the Attorney General to investigate and prosecute, where appropriate, those who sell gasoline, generators, building supplies, chain saws, hotel rooms and other necessary goods and services at a price grossly in excess of the prices at the time of the emergency declaration unless the sellers costs increased as well.
Attorney General Conway provides the following tips to consumers needing storm repair or clean up services:
• Never pay in advance for repair work or materials. Scam artists often take advance payments from consumers and never return to complete the work. If an advance is needed to purchase materials, offer to purchase the materials yourself;
• Use local, reputable contractors for repairs, if possible. If local contractors bring in out-of-town workers, ask who will be responsible for their work if it is not satisfactory;
• Ask if the contractor is licensed, bonded (if required by the city or county), and insured;
• Check unknown companies out with the Better Business Bureau (Louisville/Western KY 1-800-388-2222; Lexington/Eastern KY 1-800-866-6668) or call the Consumer Protection Division 1-888-432-9257 to see if information is available about the company;
• Demand a written contract. If possible, get estimates from several contractors;
• Be suspicious of unfamiliar, out-of-state vehicles and those who offer repair work at unreasonably low prices. Contact local law enforcement about your suspicions.
Mold remediation is also a concern for victims of flooding. Public health concerns associated with water damage include mold mitigation and prevention, carbon monoxide exposure and proper food handling and storage. For more information, visit http://1.usa.gov/1K5auHt.
Kentuckians should utilize the following tips if their vehicles have suffered water damage.
• Check your oil. A reading of an oil level that is too high may indicate water in the engine. Do not start or run your car, it could cause severe damage. Contact your insurance company immediately. Comprehensive coverage of a vehicle includes losses other than collision, such as flood, fire, theft, vandalism, falling objects and colliding with animals.
• If you have a car loan, notify your lender of the damage.
• Act quickly to determine the vehicle’s current NADA average prior to the flood damage. Owners will need to know this when dealing with an insurance provider and perhaps, in dealing with any lender.
• Determine how high the flood water reached on your vehicle. If the water reached the midpoint of the tire, there may be severe damage to electrical systems generally located along the bottom of the floor. Some experts consider the vehicle a total loss if this area is flooded.
“My Office of Consumer Protection stands ready to help those who’ve been affected by recent flooding,” said Attorney General Conway. “I encourage anyone with specific information regarding possible price gouging may call my Consumer Protection Hotline at 888-432-9257.”