The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s Consumer Affairs division is investigating about 600 complaints of gasoline price gouging received from consumers, reports WTVF-TV.
Typically, the state would get 5,000 total complaints every year.
“That’s off the charts for us, we are in the midst of of sorting through the overflow of complaints,” TDCI Communications Director Kevin Walters said.
Prices increased as a result of a pipeline leak in Alabama nearly two weeks ago. Governor Haslam issued an executive order to increase the hours of truckers shipping fuel. Panic over a possible gas shortage prompted drivers to pack gas stations and tap them out throughout the mid-state.
“It was frustrating this weekend,” Tennessee Grocers & Convenience Store Association President Rob Ikard told NewsChannel 5. “There was a sudden and unnatural demand of gas over the weekend.”
Majority of the complaints were from the Nashville metro area with reports of gas prices ranging from $3 per gallon to as high as $9.99 per gallon.
Under Tennessee law, it is unlawful to grossly charge essential goods or services in a time of emergency.
There are so many complaints the Consumer Affairs staff is still logging the complaints. State officials say they will go through each complaint with a legal team to determine the validity.
Patrick Sheehan, head of the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. apologized Thursday after emergency alerts were sent to mobile devices across the state during testing — and some were not labeled as tests.
Text of statement from TEAM Director Patrick Sheehan, emailed to media
“Today the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency conducted a statewide test of the Emergency Alert System and Wireless Emergency Alerts to mobile devices. The purpose of the test was to assess the readiness and effectiveness of the system to address the public during times of emergency. The purpose of this system is essential to ensure we can communicate to save lives and protect property. We timed today’s test to coincide with the beginning of National Preparedness Month and it was designed to have limited impact on the public.
“TEMA spent the last several weeks working with our partners, EAS participants across the state , and the public to prepare for today’s test. Unfortunately, during today’s test we learned valuable lessons about the Emergency Alert System, our protocols, and areas to improve on the delivery of these types of alerts in the future.”
“We have received calls and messages from hundreds of Tennesseans letting us know about problems with receiving messages and the concerns caused by the messages received. In many instances the caveats that the message was part of a test were not received, making it seem like an emergency was imminent. While many are understanding, knowing that we need to test our systems, many have voiced their concerns about the angst this test cause. Please accept my sincerest apologies for any inconvenience today’s test caused.
“In the coming days and weeks TEMA will be reevaluating our protocols and systems. We will not be conducting any public tests of the system in the foreseeable future.
We do these tests to make certain we know about problems before we need the systems. In this regard alone, this test has been very valuable.
Again, please accept my apologies on behalf of TEMA and my gratitude for your patience and understanding.