RELEASE: Price Freeze in Effect for Commodity Sales on the Island of MauiPosted on Aug 10, 2023 in News Releases, OCP
DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS
KA ʻOIHANA PILI KĀLEPA
Office of Consumer Protection
JOSH GREEN, M.D.
GOVERNOR | KE KIAʻĀINA
NADINE Y. ANDO
DIRECTOR | KA LUNA HOʻOKELE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 10, 2023
Price Freeze in Effect for Commodity Sales on the Island of Maui
Consumers Urged to Report Suspected Price Gouging
HONOLULU — Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) Executive Director Mana Moriarty today advised the public that there is a price freeze in effect for the Island of Maui for all commodities as a result of the Second and Third Emergency Proclamations invoked on August 9, 2023 in response to the Maui wildfires. The price freeze, which is scheduled to remain in effect until August 31, 2023, unless terminated or superseded by separate emergency proclamation, does not extend beyond the Island of Maui.
During the declared emergency, the price freeze now in effect for the Island of Maui means that commodities must be sold at pre-emergency price levels. Under state law, commodities is defined broadly to mean any good or service necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of the people within the designated emergency area. Such a broad definition generally includes materials, merchandise, supplies, equipment, or resources, and more specifically includes those things consumers will likely need to cope with the emergency, such as food, water, ice, gasoline, cooking fuel, batteries, generators, medical supplies, and construction materials.
Because the price freeze generally precludes merchants from raising the price of commodities during the period of the declared emergency, each item sold at a price above the pre-emergency prices constitutes a violation of state law. In any legal action initiated by OCP against a merchant, merchants face being ordered to pay restitution in order to reimburse consumers, in addition to mandatory fines and penalties of between $500 and $10,000 per violation.
“The Office of Consumer Protection will investigate complaints and prosecute any offenders to the fullest extent of the law,” Moriarty said. “It is important for consumers to alert the Office of Consumer Protection about any businesses selling commodities at increased prices during this emergency period.”
Some merchants may avoid fines and penalties if they can show the violation of the price limitation was unintentional, and show the prices were promptly rolled back to the appropriate level upon learning of the price caps, and show a restitution program was implemented to return any excessive payments to consumers. Corrective measures that fall short of all of these required showings, however, will not save merchants from being ordered to pay mandatory fines and penalties.
The public is encouraged to report to OCP any instances of potential price gouging, being any instance when a consumer has paid for goods or services purchased on the Island of Maui at a price that was increased after August 9, 2023 while the price freeze was in effect.
OCP can be contacted by email at [email protected] and through the Consumer Resource Center at 808-587-4272.
Complaints can also be filed online at OCP’s portal at https://consumercomplaint.hawaii.gov/.
# # #
Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Office: (808) 586-7582