HURRICANE, W.Va. – State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey filed a price gouging complaint Friday morning against the owner of two convenience stores in Putnam County and an unnamed manager at one of those stores.

Morrisey said the alleged price gouging began the day after the chemical spill in the Elk River that contaminated the water for 100,000 West Virginia American Water customers in parts of nine counties. A Do Not Use order was issued on Jan. 9, forcing 300,000 people to drink bottled or canned water.

Morrisey’s office began getting complaints about the price of bottled water at Mid Valley Mart 1 and 2 in Hurricane. They’re both owned by Achraf Assi. The price of a one-gallon jug of Tyler Mountain Spring Water was $1.59 for 10 days prior to the emergency. On the morning of January 10, the price went up to $3.39 a jug.

“They increased the price of bottled water by more than 100 percent after the state of emergency was declared and then they kept those prices inflated,” according to Morrisey.

Price gouging is against state law under the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act.

Morrisey said he sent his investigators to check out the complaints and he was disturbed by their findings.

“I am not going to tolerate people taking advantage of our citizens during times of emergency,” he said.

A complaint and petition for a preliminary and permanent injunction was filed in Putnam County Circuit Court. Morrisey is asking the court to make Assi and the manager to reimburse customers who purchased the over-priced water and shell out $5,000 for “each and every willful and repeated violation.”

“This is a bad apple and it’s important that the citizens of our state know that their attorney general is going to enforce the law,” stated Morrisey.

Morrisey said his office has been investigating six separate price gouging complaints. However at this time, they were only ready to move forward against Mid Valley Mart.

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  • wvwisdom

    It's sad to see Republicans acting to hurt WV's economy. Look, folks, you want MORE businesspeople investing and doing business here. They will not do it for humanitarian reasons; they will do it in order to make a profit. (Classical economist Adam Smith has written most clearly about this.) When the government restricts their profit, they will invest less; there will be less bottled water and every other targeted product available, not more. The quality of life will decline, only slightly, but the cumulative effect of such government actions is to push WV farther down the various rankings. The best reaction to Mr. Assi and similar people should be gratitude, appreciation to him for providing needed water. If he had not worked so hard to have his store, despite WV's anti-business climate, there would be less drinking water available. Politicians such as Mr. Morrissey do absolutely nothing to increase the supply of drinking water or other products; instead they encourage shortages.
    Economists such as Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have written extensively about”price-gouging”, and there is a good discussion of the drinking water issue in the Michael Sandel book “Justice”.

  • me

    Glad they caught this POS doing this to family that were suffering in this crisis. For some of you posting, two wrongs dont make it right.

  • Shadow

    Shades of a Third World Country. Whatever happened to the Supply and Demand Theory? Normal reaction is that if you don't like the price, look elsewhere. That is what most people do. Also, raising the price has known to prevent Hoarding?

  • GregG

    Raise the price of water during crisis and it's price gouging. But Big Oil can raise the price of gas around holidays or because of weather and that's "supply and demand". And we wonder what is wrong with this country?

  • Frank/Moundsville

    BFD......................go catch some real crooks, Patrick. You can start looking right under the Capital Dome..............

    • Red Dwarf

      If the AG hadn't done anything you'd say he's letting the crooks get away with gouging and he's not doing his job. You can't have it both ways.

    • Jonus Grumby

      Apparently it's OK with you for crooks to gouge the public during a crisis such as this.

  • Mason County Contrarian

    Tacky Patrick Morrisey Reelection Campaign Slogan #5 (an ongoing series)--"Patrick Morrisey: Water Gougin', Ferrin' Bad Apple Go-Afterererer".

    Stay tuned for more.

  • Nick

    Yeah...down here in Princeton gas was 3.32 and sheets raised it to 4.45 right before the big snow storm.

  • Woodchuck0

    Gas in Motown went from 3.25 to 3.49 in under 10 days. That's gouging. Why not fine them.

    Oh and I had to buy 22 gallons to get to work.

  • wvu999

    Well we finally found a company that PM and his wife didn't lobby for. Otherwise they would be fine.

  • Picklebee

    Would $20.00 per game at a WVU basketball game qualify as "Price Gouging"?

    • Jonus Grumby

      Most of those I see at WVU games aren't drinking water.

    • Hailey

      $20 per game would qualify as a discount , fool

  • Brian

    While market forces of supply and demand do set prices in the market place, this huge increase in demand that Assi was responding to was not really a legitimate component of the market. It was a demand shock in the wake of a disaster, and the period of abnormally high demand was short-lived. Furthermore, even if it was a permanent increase in demand, Assi is not a producer who would have to ramp up his production to meet the new level of demand. He is a middleman and therefore not really a player in the supply and demand relationship. As much as I do not like gov't interfering in business, Assi's business practice here was unethical and predatory, and Morrisey is right to thump him for it.

    • Aaron

      Interesting. Market shock is not part of the market and retailers don't play a role in supply in demand. I don't remember that from any economic class but hey, it's on the internet, so it must be true.

      • Brian

        The chemical spill is an externality that affects the market but is not part of the market itself. Producers and consumers represent supply and demand; Assi is neither in this case.

    • Big Bob-E

      God lord Brian...he made a few extra bucks on a bottle of water. Watch how much money the lawyers will make from this disaster!! Grandstanding by the AG

  • Hurricane Guy

    Has the Attorney General been to a movie lately? 1 bottle of water is $3.00 it cost me over 30.00 for 2 people for a show before 6pm

  • blugldmn

    When are county tax departments going to get indicted.

    Every time tax revenue falls short they raise the price of taxes!

  • Big Bob-E

    How about you go after the drug companies that are poisoning the citizen's of West Virginia. Oh yeah...they donate heavily to your wife's lobbying firm.

  • Teays Valley Resident

    This is grandstanding and campaigning by the attorney general. Wasting tax payer money on this nonsense. I was in this store during the crisis and he was giving away free water to people who brought in their own jugs.