Several complaints of possible price-gouging at gas stations in Eastern Kentucky have been reported since tornadoes demolished portions of the region on Friday, Attorney General Jack Conway said Monday.
Conway's Office of Consumer Protection warned unscrupulous businesses on Monday that price-gouging will not be tolerated and urged Kentuckians to report possible gouging.
"It is vital that consumers continue to be our eyes and ears across the commonwealth to report individuals or businesses that may be gouging consumers," Conway said.
Complaints related to price gouging can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or consumers can call the state's price-gouging hotline at 502-696-5466.
Gov. Steve Beshear signed a consumer protection executive order over the weekend to implement Kentucky's price-gouging laws statewide. The order 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 that is "grossly in excess" of the pre-declaration price.
The order remains in effect for 30 days.
In 2009, Attorney General Conway fined eight gas retailers more than $107,000 for violating the price-gouging statute in the wake of Hurricane Ike and a subsequent windstorm in Kentucky.
Conway's office received nearly 2,000 phone calls and emails from consumers in the days and weeks following that disaster.
Conway also is warning consumers that scam artists and fly-by-night contractors may try to prey on their misfortune.
He said consumers who need storm repair or clean-up services should follow these tips:
■ 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 out unknown companies with the Better Business Bureau (Louisville/Western KY 1-800-388-2222; Lexington/Eastern KY 1-800-866-6668; Cincinnati BBB for residents in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties 1-800-471-3015) or call the Consumer Protection Division in Conway's office at 502-696-5466 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.