In 1992, the Florida Congress enacted Florida Statute 501.160, to prevent businesses from attempting to gouge consumers during the aftermath of natural disasters by arbitrarily raising prices on commodities and consumer products. The law specifically prohibits “dramatic increases in the prices of certain essential commodities” during “certain periods of disaster.” An obvious example that many Florida residents have experienced is price gouging of gasoline prices after hurricanes. An exception to this rule is that businesses may increase product prices which are directly attributable to additional costs or “national or international market trends.”
Exxon Mobile recently petitioned the State of Florida, Department of Agriculture for a declaratory opinion as to whether its policy of relying on the Gulf Coast Regional Platts index as the pricing indicator for its contracts would qualify as a “national or international market trend” since the Platts Index is limited geographically to the Gulf Coast region of the United States.
Initially, the Department of Agriculture refused to respond due to the fact that the answer could affect up to 15 similarly situated businesses also using the index.
However, The First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee recently released its opinion ordering the Department to answer Exxon’s question.
ExxonMobil Oil, Corp v. State of Florida, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services