This is a partial transcript from "Your World with Neil Cavuto," July 8, 2005, that was edited for clarity.
NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: My next guest has this suggestion: Don't even think about it. That's what he has been telling business operators who might be planning on price gouging hurricane victims.
Joining me now from Tampa is Florida's attorney general, Charlie Crist. General, thank you for joining us.
CHARLIE CRIST, FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Good to be with you, Neil. Thank you very much.
CAVUTO: What are you noticing thus far? Is anyone trying to pull that?
CRIST: Well, it seems that that is happening. We have received almost 300 calls from people around the state of Florida lodging complaints about the fact that they believe they're being price-gouged. That's obviously unfortunate. It's not what we want to see.
But whenever the governor declares a state of emergency, that's the situation that we're in. It will not be tolerated in our state. We will do everything we can to stop it, to protect Floridians and protect consumers.
CAVUTO: How do you stop it, General?
CRIST: Well, you enforce the law.
Fortunately, the legislature has given us very good laws in the state of Florida. It gives the attorney general's office the opportunity to fight back, to say, look, if you are doing this, if you are price-gouging our citizens at a time of need, it will not be tolerated. There will be fines that will be imposed as a result of it. Also, they have criminalized the fact that people who would price-gouge. And the consequences obviously are very serious.
CAVUTO: But, General, I always wonder, one man's price-gouging is another merchant saying, look, this is the only price I could get it for, right?
CRIST: Well, that may be an argument that you can make. But when we are in a state of emergency, if there is a gross disparity between what the store was charging before the emergency arose and then afterwards, it's very clear that that is not making a profit. That's profiteering at the expense of people at a time of need. That's why these laws are important.
Listen, I'm all for free enterprise and entrepreneurship, but we're not for people taking advantage of Floridians in a time of need. That's why these laws are on the books and that's why we will aggressively enforce them to protect the people of our state.
CAVUTO: General, I have heard anecdotally from some residents who have to move in interior Florida. So, this is probably not reliable data I'm getting, but who say that some of the hotels in the interior sections are jacking up rates. Do you have any control over that?
CRIST: Well, we do. And, in fact, we saw that during the four hurricanes that we had last year, Neil.
You know, the most egregious story I heard was a lady in Pinellas County, the Tampa Bay area, who was evacuating, trying to get away from Hurricane Charley.
CRIST: During the course of that, she saw a hotel advertised for $39.99 a night. When she got there with her disabled daughter and her elderly husband, they were charging over $100 a night. That is clearly in gross disparity. That is clearly price-gouging. And we prosecuted the case.
CAVUTO: General, we are looking at a live shot right now of President Bush on Marine One. He's going to be busy in Washington for the next day, at least.
CRIST: Yes, sir.
CAVUTO: Are you expecting to see him stop by?
CRIST: Well, it's certainly possible.
As you know, obviously, because our current great governor, Jeb Bush, has the great relationship that he obviously does with his brother, it's been a great benefit to be able to call upon the president of the United States to help out the people of Florida and all in need.
CAVUTO: All right. OK.
CRIST: So, we would welcome him coming here, but we hope the storm doesn't come and he doesn't have to at all.
CAVUTO: All right.
Well, we wish you well, General. I know it's going to be a busy couple of days for you. Hang in there.
CRIST: Thank you, Neil. We will do so. Appreciate that.
CAVUTO: Charlie Crist, the Florida attorney general.
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