Trust & Verify: High gas prices are not price gouging

Published: March 12, 2022 11:29 AM EST
Updated: March 12, 2022 1:25 PM EST

Filling up on gas can be downright depressing right now.

With prices more than $4 a gallon, it’s understandable why some are calling it highway robbery.

Is there price gouging happening in Southwest Florida?

According to Florida’s Attorney General’s Office, in order for something to be considered price gouging, the price hike must happen during a declared state of emergency and be directly tied to goods or products needed during that state of emergency.

For example, gas, food, water and lodging are all protected during hurricanes or other natural disasters.

During the emergency order for the pandemic, items like hand sanitizer and face masks were protected from price hikes.

But in the case of gas prices right now, even if you suspect price gouging, it’s not a crime unless the governor declares a state of emergency and the hike is excessive.

FGCU finance professor Tom Smythe said while the prices now are painful, this is just supply and demand.

“Some of it is the supply chain that we’ve been experiencing for two years. Now, on top of that, we are exacerbating it with a lack of supply in a particular area, in this case, petroleum,” Smythe said. “To suggest the oil companies are gouging us, it’s just not accurate.”

A look at a chart from the U.S. Energy Information Administration tracks oil prices to 1970.

It shows a correlation between oil prices and world events.

In 1980, prices jumped due to the Iran-Iraq War. And the crash of 2008 sent prices to $125 a barrel.