LANSING, MI – If you are a victim of price-gouging during this national health crisis, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office wants to hear from you immediately.
As of 1 p.m. yesterday, March 13th, 2020, the Attorney General’s office had received 75 price-gouging complaints related to COVID-19. Four businesses have been contacted by the Attorney General’s office to gather more information on their consumer-reported price-gouging, with the latest letters being mailed today.
Responses from the businesses will be evaluated to determine what action is appropriate.
“Consumers must be treated fairly and not be held to the whims of a business looking to profit from fear, especially in the midst of a public health emergency,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “My office takes price-gouging complaints very seriously, and I will not hesitate to take legal action against those businesses that are not complying with the law.”
The Attorney General’s office is actively looking at other potential targets, but will not identify them at this time.
The state issued an emergency declaration late Tuesday due to the first positive cases of COVID-19. The Attorney General’s office is actively tracking consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and is evaluating the reports to determine what actions to take.
Face masks, hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies and bottled water are some of the products that have reportedly been on store shelves for exceptionally high prices – likely in violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. Other products consumers might seek to purchase due to the threat of COVID-19 may also be at risk of price-gouging practices.
The Attorney General’s office last week contacted a west Michigan retailer for reportedly selling individual face masks at high prices. A discussion with the business owner took place, followed by a letter requiring the business to provide specific information to avoid formal action or investigation.
Another business in Ann Arbor was contacted and issued a letter Wednesday, and investigators are awaiting a response. Two grocery stores were mailed letters today, one in Farmington Hills and another in Dearborn.
Retailers may be in violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act if they are:
- Charging the consumer a price that is grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold; and
- Causing coercion and duress as the result of the time and nature of a sales presentation.
Michigan residents are urged to report any violation of the Consumer Protection Act online or by calling 877-765-8388.
Attorney General Nessel also recently stated her support of price-gouging legislation introduced Thursday in the Michigan Senate by Sens. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, and Ruth Johnson, R-Holly.
Information around the COVID-19 outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available online at a state website focused on the issue, and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.