Legal-Ease: Capitalism or price gouging?

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.

Of all the devastation that we’ve seen on the media in the wake of Harvey in Texas, some of the more widely shared photos were of price gouging. One picture that was especially widely shared on social media was of bottled water that was marked up to more than twice its value before a storm. So the question is, is this just capitalism, or is it price gouging?

Price gouging typically means spiking the prices of services or commodities to a level that’s considered to be unfair and that it’s exploiting customers. Price gouging is frequently discussed in the wake of natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey. There is no federal law that governs price gouging, although some people in congress have introduced legislations to try to limit price gouging.

Recent flooding in the Houston, Texas, area brought us hours of television and online footage of that region’s coping.

One image that became popular in that recent media coverage was a photograph of a case of bottled water marked with a price that was over twice its pre-disaster price. Everyone seemed to have an opinion of the propriety of charging extra for water during an emergency when drinkable water becomes scarcer. Are increased prices in this context simple capitalism, or is it “price gouging”?

Read more about price gouging in Lee’s article in the Lima News here: Legal-Ease: Capitalism or price gouging?

Source:, “Legal-Ease: Capitalism or price gouging?,” by Lee R. Schroeder, September 2, 2017

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