The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs’ Office of Consumer Protection Executive Director Mana Moriarty today advised the public that certain essential goods and services sold on the Island of Maui remain subject to a price freeze, which was first ordered on Aug. 9, 2023. Unlike prior price freezes, the price freeze now in effect for certain goods and services on the Island of Maui applies only to essential goods and services that are specifically identified in the Seventh Proclamation Relating to Wildfires.
Goods and services that are not specifically identified in the Seventh Proclamation Relating to Wildfires are no longer subject to the price freeze. The following essential items remain subject to the price freeze:
- dairy and non-dairy milk;
- essential childcare products including diapers, wipes, and infant formula;
- over-the-counter medicines including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and first aid and wound care products;
- hygiene products including toothpaste, feminine hygiene products, hand soap and sanitizer, tissue, toilet paper, and face masks;
- durable medical equipment including wheelchairs, crutches, and walkers;
- liquified petroleum gas products including propane and butane;
- sales and rentals of motor vehicles;
- repair of motor vehicles, as defined in section 437B-1, HRS;
- rentals for the purpose of storing personal property in a self-service storage facility, as defined in part Ill, chapter 507, HRS;
- pet food and pet supplies; and
- rentals of residential dwellings.
This price freeze, which is scheduled to remain in effect until Nov. 6, 2023, unless terminated or superseded by separate emergency proclamation, does not extend beyond the Island of Maui. During this declared emergency, the price freeze now in effect for the Island of Maui means that the essential goods and services that are subject to the price freeze must be sold at pre-emergency price levels.
“Our office will investigate complaints and prosecute any offenders to the fullest extent of the law,” Moriarty said. “Following a disaster, price freezes automatically come into effect to protect vulnerable consumers from businesses that would unfairly hike their prices to profit off that vulnerability.”
Because the price freeze generally precludes merchants from raising the price of commodities during the period of the declared emergency, each item sold at a price above the pre-emergency price constitutes a violation of state law. In any legal action initiated by OCP against a merchant, merchants face being ordered to pay restitution to reimburse consumers, in addition to mandatory fines and penalties of between $500 and $10,000 per violation.
The Seventh Proclamation Relating to Wildfires expands a safe harbor for sellers or landlords who pass on additional operating expenses to the consumer or tenant during this declared emergency. Unlike prior price freezes related to the wildfires, a seller or landlord is no longer required to demonstrate that additional operating expenses that are passed on to a consumer or tenant during this declared emergency were incurred because of the emergency or disaster.
The public is encouraged to report to OCP any instances of potential price gouging, meaning any instance when a consumer has paid for goods or services purchased on the Island of Maui at a price that was increased after Aug. 9, 2023, while the price freeze was in effect. From September 9, 2023, the prohibition on price increases applies only to the essential goods and services listed in the Seventh Proclamation Relating to Wildfires, which are re-listed above for convenience.
A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) has also been published by the Office on Consumer Protection for guidance to the public on the Residential Landlord-Tenant Code. The FAQs addresses questions about rights as applicable upon the issuance of the Seventh Proclamation. The FAQs and contact information for the Landlord-Tenant Information Center is available at https://cca.hawaii.gov/ocp/landlord-tenant/.
OCP can be contacted by email at [email protected] and through the Consumer Resource Center at 808-587-4272. Complaints can also be filed online at OCP’s portal at https://web2.dcca.hawaii.gov/ocpcomplaint/.