File a Complaint
(Language interpretation services are available upon request)
- What is price gouging?
The price gouging statutes cover essential commodities like gasoline, food, ice, water, other fuel, generators, lodging, and other necessities. The Price Gouging Act of 2002 protects consumers during a state of emergency against pricing that is “grossly in excess of the price generally charged for the same or similar goods or services in the usual course of business immediately prior to the events giving rise to the state of emergency.”
Tennessee’s Consumer Protection Act also outlaws unfair and deceptive practices like price gouging, including unreasonably raising prices in response to a disaster even if there is not a declared state of emergency. Penalties include up to a $1,000 fine per violation, refunds, and injunctive relief.
If you suspect that you were a victim of price gouging, look for sudden dramatic increases in prices for necessities right before, during, or after a natural disaster. High prices are not automatically price gouging and may be reasonable based on the costs to the business. Keep a record of your transaction and record as many details as possible such as the location of the merchant, the date and time of your purchase, the method of payment, the price of the item in days prior to the sudden price increase, and the price you paid. Always keep your receipts. Take pictures of a listed price with your cell phone. This information is provided from the Tennessee Attorney General’s office and may be found at: https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/article/natural-disasters.
- If you have a consumer complaint - Contact the business first!
A letter to the manager of the business that sold the product or performed the service is usually effective. Keep copies of all correspondence.
- What is the Division of Consumer Affairs unable to do?
- We cannot:
- act on your behalf or provide you with legal advice on your rights and obligations under the law
- make formal decisions on whether a person or business had breached the law as only the courts can do this
- We cannot file a lawsuit whose only purpose is to recover money or property for you
- What is the first step to filing a complaint?
The consumer must live in Tennessee OR the business must be located in Tennessee.
We strongly suggest that you contact the business first before filing a complaint as this may be effective in resolving your dispute. Please see draft letter located here and include it or any other correspondence you have had with the business.
Follows these four steps to help prevent delays in processing your complaint:
- Answer all questions on the complaint form. Briefly describe your complaint and include all important facts. Either type or print clearly and legibly when using the printable complaint form.
- Provide copies of any documents that would support your complaint. DO NOT MAIL ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS; these will not be returned.
- Your complaint will be part of public record. Therefore, please take the time to black out information, such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, bank and credit card numbers, and any other sensitive information.
- Remember to date and sign the complaint form.
- What is the Complaint Process?
Once the complaint is made part of our files, the business will be a sent a copy of the complaint along with a letter asking the business to respond directly to you to resolve the dispute. In the letter we also ask the business to inform us of any resolution so that this information may be included in the file. You will receive a copy of this letter. It takes approximately 30 days for our staff to process a complete complaint.
- What if the business does not contact me in regard to my complaint?
The Division cannot force a business to respond to your complaint. You may consider contacting your local Better Business Bureau or an attorney.
- May I e-mail for an update on my complaint?
In an effort to keep your complaint file current, please email your questions and additional documentation to the consumer protection specialist assigned to your complaint or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please list your name and file number in the subject field of the e-mail.
Due to our call volume, it may take you longer to receive a response by phone than by email.
- What if I am still not satisfied after the complaint process?
The Division, by law, cannot force a business to satisfy your complaint. Consumers who wish to seek formal legal actions based on their claims should seek a private attorney or visit our web page on legal resources here.
- Should I contact another Government Agency?
The Division cooperates and works closely with other government agencies. If appropriate, the Division will forward your complaint to another agency for assistance. If your complaint is referred to another agency you will be advised of the referral. In any event, your complaint will be kept on file so the Division can monitor the complaint history. *If you feel you are the victim of a criminal act please contact your local law enforcement immediately. A complaint filed with the Division does not provide any statutorily mandated stay.
- Formal Actions
When there is a potential violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act or a pattern of complaints against a business, the Division collaborates with the Attorney General’s Office as the enforcement authority who ensures and upholds the Consumer Protection Act for the State. These communications with the Attorney General’s office are confidential. Consumers who wish to seek formal legal actions based on their claims should seek a private attorney.
If a lawsuit or settlement is filed, that information will be publicly available, and the Division generally attempts to notify consumers that legal action has been taken. Even after litigation, however, consumers may not receive restitution. For example, a company facing a lawsuit may go out of business and the owners may not be found, the entities may file bankruptcy, or they may not be held legally responsible by a court of law.