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Upstate couple charged with price gouging while SC was under state of emergency

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An upstate couple has been charged with price gouging during the ice and snow event that created hazardous driving conditions in upstate South Carolina last week.

WYFF4 reported on February 5 that Ricky and Melissa West, owners of Countrywide Towing in Travelers Rest, have been charged with price gouging after charging outrageous towing charges. Click here to watch the video.

It's a crime in South Carolina to overcharge for services during a state of emergency. Governor Nikki Haley had declared the state was in an emergency as of noon on January 28.

The incidents took place on January 29, according to warrants issued against the couple.

Sally Mattaliano was charged $1,167.50 to tow her car from the roadway after she became stuck on ice on Highway 276 near the Duncan Chapel Fire Department. . Another customer was charged $892.50. The average cost of a tow due to an accident is $230.

According to American Bar.org, the penalty for violation of S.C. Code Ann. § 39-5-145 the unfair practices act is a $5,000 fine per violation, increasing to $15,000 if in violation of imposed injunction. Price gouging is described as

"An "unconscionable price" is a price that (i) represents a gross disparity between the price charged and the price of the same or similar goods during the 30 days prior to the declared emergency."

Greenville residents, keep in mind that Greenville County tows are $225 & $25/day storage. Highway Patrol tows are $230 & $28/day storage. While fees may differ in other areas of the state, they are regulated by law enforcement and not by the towing companies.

Keep this in mind for future reference so you don't become a victim of those just out to make a buck during times of hardship.

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