Oklahoma’s Price Gouging Law & the Coronavirus: If you don’t know it, you need to know it now

The coronavirus has paralyzed most of the country and it has not spared Oklahoma.  The virus has disrupted our lives in ways that couldn’t have been imagined even a few weeks ago:

  • Grocery stores have empty shelves;
  • Items like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, items you probably though little about before, are gone and when available they are treated like treasures;
  • Conscienceless people have bought up vast quantities of critical goods and are now selling at a King’s Ransom;
  • Schools and stores are closed; and
  • We are being told (ordered?) to stay home and stay away from people.

Enter the Oklahoma Emergency Price Stabilization Act, a law that was made for these times, no doubt about it. 

Oklahoma’s Anti Price Gouging Law
The Act protects people from unscrupulous merchants, sellers and landlords raising the price of goods or services sky-high, at exactly the time people most need the goods or services and are least able to find the goods or services. 

The Act (typically known as an “anti-gouging” law) was activated when Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt declared an Emergency for all 77 Counties in Oklahoma on March 15.  Below are some answers to key questions you need to know about the Oklahoma Emergency Price Stabilization Act.

To whom or what does the Act apply?
The Act applies to:

“Goods” which all things which are movable at the time of sale, rental, or lease other than the money with which the price is to be paid and includes any services which are incidental to the sale of the goods

“Services” means any duty or labor to be rendered by one person to another and includes any goods which are incidental to the performance of the service including:

  1. Sale of utilities (including electricity, natural gas, telecommunications, and cable television)
  2. Sale, rental, or lease of transportation, freight, carriage, moving, and storage, and
  3. Rental or lease of vehicles, trailers, and other equipment.

To whom or what does the Act NOT Apply?
The Act does not apply to growers, producers, or processors of raw or processed food products, except for retail sales of such products to a consumer.

What does the Act prohibit?
The Oklahoma Emergency Price Stabilization Act provides:

No person for the duration of a declaration of emergency by the Governor of this state or by the President of the United States and for thirty (30) days thereafter shall sell, rent, or lease, or offer to sell, rent, or lease, for delivery in the emergency area, any goods, services, dwelling units, or storage space in the emergency area at a rate or price which is more than ten percent (10%) above the rate or price charged by the person for the same or similar goods, services, dwelling units, or storage spaces immediately prior to the declaration of emergency unless the increase in the rate or price is attributable.

 Essentially, the Act limits prices for goods to 10% unless the price increase meets one of the Act’s exceptions, which you can find here.

What are the penalties for violating the Act?
A violation of the Act is considered a violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act.
This means a person violating the Act could be subject to a lawsuit by the Oklahoma Attorney General or an Oklahoma District Attorney for damages caused by the violation and a court order telling the violator to stop (i.e., an injunction).  

Posted by Shawn Roberts

On this blog, I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. My focus and most experience is in estate planning and business issues including Oklahoma non-compete law. I make a living as an attorney in the law firm I founded, Shawn J. Roberts, P.C. in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with my wife Amy and my two children, Sam (19) and David (11). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."