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A Mississipi RV park is under investigation for price gouging, according to a report in the Hattiesburg American.
A complaint registered by Marvin and Rose Thomas, residents at Quilla’s RV Park on U.S. 49, prompted the investigation. The Thomases and other residents at the park said they were informed Sept. 9 that their monthly rent had been increased $165 a month to $380 a month.
“They hit us at a good time,” said Marvin Thomas, a 73-year-old retired government employee suffering from emphysema and who uses a wheelchair. “We have no place else to go. All the other campgrounds are filled.”
Quilla’s owner, John Pace, defended the move, saying it has been the park’s long-standing practice to eliminate monthly rates in times of great demand. He also said he had been doing a favor to the monthly renters, allowing them to make spaces a permanent residence at a cheap price. The rent includes the use of bathrooms and utility hook-ups, he said.
“All these people complaining, they should be thankful that they’ve been living there so long under rate,” he said.
Grant Hedgepeth, director of the state Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division, disagreed. He said the case is clearly one of price gouging.
“He has to stick with his rate he offered before the state of emergency was declared,” Hedgepeth said.
The state has pursued price gouging complaints on everything from hotel rooms to gasoline since Katrina swept through the state, Hedgepeth said.
“The majority of people are trying to do the right thing. But you have some greedy people out there that are going to try to capitalize,” he said.
Not all instances of price gouging will result in charges being filed, Hedgepeth said. In most cases the attorney general’s office will send local law enforcement to talk to business owners and try to work things out, he said.
At Quilla’s, residents said they received a note taped to their doors Sept. 9, 11 days after Katrina devastated the region, alerting them park management would no longer accept monthly rent payments, which were $215 a month. Instead, daily payments of $20 or weekly payments of $95 would be required.
Law enforcement officials looked into the allegations at Quilla’s yesterday, but have not yet completed their investigation, said Jacob Ray, a special assistant attorney general.