Attorneys General around the country continue to take action against businesses that engage in price gouging or that commit other deceptive or fraudulent conduct related to COVID-19. Here's a recap of what AGs offices have been focused on over the past few weeks.
Price gouging. AGs continue to bring price gouging complaints against businesses that are violating state price gouging laws. For example, the California AG brought charges against a grocery store for violating California's price gouging rules, which prohibit increasing prices by more than ten percent. AGs in Florida, Iowa, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington, D.C., report taking action on price gouging as well. (Here's our post about state and local price gouging laws.)
Delivery issues. The Michigan AG issued a warning to consumers to look out for businesses that sell coronavirus-related products online, but then never actually deliver them.
Refunds. The New Jersey AG reported that it is investigating businesses for engaging in unlawful refund practices, saying that it has received hundreds of "reports of health clubs, hotels, ticket agents and other businesses allegedly refusing to issue refunds after they closed or suspended services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic." The Pennsylvania AG also warned businesses about failing to comply with their refund policies.
COVID-19 test kits. The Colorado AG sent cease and desist letters to businesses for overstating the reliability and accuracy of COVID-19 tests.
Fraud. AGs also took action against marketers for engaging in fraudulent conduct related to COVID-19. For example, the Washington AG sent a cease and desist letter to a company selling a fake COVID-19 vaccine. In addition, the Texas Attorney General warned consumers to be on the lookout for scammers posing as government agencies.
AGs from coast-to-coast are aggressively going after marketers who seek to take advantage of consumers during the COVID-19 pandemic. What are some key take-aways? If you're going to raise your prices, make sure that you comply with applicable state and local price gouging laws. If consumers paid for something, and you can't deliver, more likely than not, you're probably required to give them a refund. And, if you're making any type of claim about how your product can help protect consumers from, or treat, the coronavirus, you'd better have competent and reliable scientific evidence to back it up.
"Any would-be price gouger should take note -- my office will hold you accountable for harming people in this time of crisis" -- North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein