Tuesday, December 21, 2004
On this day:

More Price-Gouging Indictments

Alabama's price-gouging statute is another example of a well-intended law that ends up doing more harm than good by interfering with free markets. By punishing people for setting prices according to what the market will bear, the law impedes the delivery of goods and services in the aftermath of a disaster.

But, the law is being enforced strictly by the Attorney General's office. Three more indictments were announced last week.

A Baldwin County grand jury returned three indictments against three people for allegations of theft and price gouging following Hurricane Ivan, according to a statement from the Alabama attorney general's office...

State laws prohibiting price gouging take effect when the governor has declared a state of emergency, which he did in the days leading up to the storm.

Price gouging is defined as selling or renting any item for 25 percent or more than the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days, unless the increase can be attributed to reasonable costs, the release states...

In October, a Baldwin County grand jury also returned three other price-gouging indictments, according to reports. Two tree-service workers -- Jonathan Spotswood, 39, of Daphne, the owner of Spotswood's Tree Service, and Herbert O'Neal Humphrey, 46, of Stapleton -- were each arrested and released on $10,000 bonds in early October.

The third defendant, James M. "Mike" Christian, 50, of Gadsden, was charged with price gouging on electrical work. He was also arrested in October and released on a $15,000 bond, according to reports.