Charley Gouging

Gouging after Hurricane Charley
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The state has received more than 1,800 complaints about price-gouging in the wake of Hurricane Charley.

The storm hit less than a week ago. The gripes include allegations of overpriced hotel rooms, gas, lumber, hardware, generators, ice and water.

Attorney General Charlie Crist has already filed complaints against hotels in West Palm Beach and Lakeland, accusing them of jacking up room rates as the storm approached. The Orlando area has been the site of more complaints than elsewhere.

State law says anyone who price gouges in a disaster area can be fined $1,000 for each offense up to $25,000. The state defines gouging as charging "grossly more" than what was charged for the product, on average, in the weeks before the disaster. But it's okay if the increase is the result of higher costs being imposed on the retailer.