Price-gouging hotline activated as Irma approaches

- In the Bay Area, Hurricane Irma was already generating price gouging and scams according to Attorney General Pam Bondi's office. 

Bondi announced the activation of the price gouging hotline Tuesday in anticipation of Hurricane Irma. Florida Law prohibits extreme increases in the price of food, water, ice, gasoline, and other items that are essential during a state of emergency.

Anyone who is convicted of price gouging could face penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations committed over a 24-hour period. Anyone who suspects price gouging - and has a phone number with a Florida area code - is urged to call the hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.

Citizens with out-of-state numbers should call 850-414-3990. You will need to give the business name, product, size, manufacturer, and price. If possible, take pictures and get the address of the location.

"So many good people in our country want to help and want to give and want to do the right thing. Sadly, there are scammers our there," Bondi says.

A spokesperson in her office said nearly 200 complaints of scams had been received by Tuesday evening.  Among the businesses consumers complained about was online giant Amazon.

Cases of bottled water on the site were priced at $18-$22 Tuesday. Walmart.com showed similar cases of water priced at $5-$8 prior to the hurricane emergency.

A spokesperson for Amazon released the following statement to FOX 13: 

"We do not engage in surge pricing. Amazon prices do not fluctuate by region or delivery location. Prices on bottled water from Amazon, and third-party sellers that are doing their own fulfillment to customers, have not widely fluctuated in the last month."

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