Gas pump gas tax gasoline

Advocate file photo

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is warning residents to be wary of price-gouging attempts as Hurricane Harvey approaches landfall.

Gov. John Bel Edwards on Thursday declared a state emergency ahead of Harvey's expected landfall in Texas Friday night or early Saturday morning.

The declaration has kicked the state's price gouging law into effect, making it illegal for businesses to unreasonably increase the prices of goods or services beyond prices ordinarily charged in the same market area at or immediately before the time of the declaration. In severe weather, it typically involves gasoline, hotels and generators.

“It is an unfortunate reality that some people and businesses attempt to take advantage of consumers during and after natural disasters,” Landry said in a statement. “I strongly encourage consumers who suspect price gouging to contact their local law enforcement agencies."

Businesses that violate the law can face civil and consumer penalties, as well as a criminal fine of up to $500 and/or six months in prison.

Those convicted of price gouging that results in major property damage or bodily injury can face up to five years behind bars, and price gouging that causes a death can result in up to 21 years in prison.

Louisiana residents who suspect price gouging can report it to local law enforcement agencies.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.