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.