In this week’s Show Me the Money, we’ve all seen the images by now, store shelves are bare in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic.
With demand for items going up, so does the temptation to raise prices but some are taking that too far, and that’s where State Attorney General Josh Shapiro steps in.
“When the governor issued his disaster declaration, that gave me the additional authority to combat price gouging,” said Shapiro.
So what’s the difference between normal price increases for a hot product and illegal activity?
“If you’re charging an unconsciously excessive price which means 20% higher than the price in the week before Governor Wolf issued his declaration that’s the technical definition of price gouging here in Pennsylvania, and we take that very seriously it’s our job to protect consumers and we are,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro says his office has received nearly 3,000 complaints from across Pennsylvania and many of them here in the Midstate. Usually, it just takes a phone call to get them to stop, but in other cases, they do have to go further.
“We’ve seen in Middletown, for example, a small grocery store selling a small case of water that would normally be a few bucks for $25, they refused to cut it out and we issued a cease and desist letter. In Harrisburg at a drug store, a small package of toilet paper was selling for $21.99, and those are just a few examples,” Shapiro said.
The Attorney General’s office has issued 114 cease and desist letters so far.
If you see price gouging, Shapiro wants to know about it.
Send an email with these four pieces of information:
- The product
- The price
- The name of the store
- The location of the store
Shapiro says, “We can go after small corner stores, big-box retailers, or online platforms, and we will if you send that information to us.”
It’s also important to note this applies to online marketplaces like Facebook, Amazon, E-Bay, and Craigslist.
Shapiro is leading a coalition of 33 Attorneys General from across the country calling on them to use their technology to put a stop to price gouging on their platforms.
If you would like to report a case of price gouging, the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.