The Office of the Attorney General received dozens of calls and e-mails about price gouging in the aftermath of the June 29 storm, but so far only four formal complaints have been filed.
Most of the incidents reported were about gas stations boosting prices, but some also were about hotel prices after the storm subsided, according to Attorney General spokesman Alan Brody.
Brody said as of Friday at noon, only four official complaints were filed by consumers.
Those complaints originated with businesses in Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties, Brody said. Three cases have already been closed, he said.
Complaints were filed against the Exxon on Forest Drive in Annapolis, a Shell on Bestgate Road and an Exxon in Upper Marlboro.
The final complaint was against a hotel in Prince George's County, but that case remains open.
Residents rushed to gas stations following the storm and those stations with power saw a boost in business, not only for gas but for ice, too. Gas prices were dropping before the storm.
The complaint filed against the Exxon on Forest Drive said that the station increased its price by 30 cents a gallon in just one day, while the Shell on Bestgate Road was selling its regular gas for more than $3.50 a gallon.
More than a dozen fans of Annapolis Patch's Facebook page said they saw elevated prices at these stations.
"My husband and I noticed that first thing Saturday morning the Shell station on Bestgate raised their prices by $0.30 a gallon," Lauren Kathleen Averill said. "They did the same thing last August after the hurricane."
Pamela R. McLaughlin said she thought both stations should face charges.
"I got gas at the Exxon on that Friday morning for $3.29, it was the same price in the afternoon," McLaughlin said. "[I] went out around 9 a.m on Saturday, and both the Exxon and the Shell were up to $3.39, came back by about an hour later and they both were up to $3.59."
Brody said although price gouging is a bad practice, it's hard to prosecute as there are no specific laws against it. In theory it could be prosecuted under the fair practice laws.
He said he believes more complaints will be filed in coming weeks, after residents have fully recovered from dealing with the storm and once they notice that they may have been cheated out of money. He said he also believes complaints could come in against private tree removal and storm cleanup companies as well as contractors fixing repairs.
"They'll start complaining if the work was bad or if they notice later what they were actually charged," Brody said.
Residents can help the Attorney General's office prosecute these cases by providing ample documentation, including receipts and pictures of the price gouging.
To file a formal complaint about price gouging, go to the Office of the Attorney General's website or call the Consumer Protection Division at 410-528-8662 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday-Friday.