Price spikes on coronavirus-related products prompt price gouging concerns

UPPER EAST SIDE, Manhattan (WABC) -- 7 On Your Side is getting complaints from our viewers and followers reporting price gouging.

People are flagging us about high prices for coronavirus-related products.

Products like masks, which are selling for $100 per box and would normally cost just a couple bucks, and cases of hand sanitizer which are costing five-to-10 times the usual price.

Someone sent us a receipt from Metro integrative Pharmacy on the Upper East Side, saying they bought three, 8 ounces pump dispensers for $150.

The owner who is advertising the sought after 'N95' mask for $400 for a box of 20, blamed his price on supply.

We asked if he felt it was unconscionable to charge this much. The owner said he did not believe so because he's paying more and believes he can charge more.

The owner didn't want to give his name or tell us how much more he was paying his vendor to charge $50 per 8 ounce bottle.

But he'll have to provide proof to the city if the store is flagged for overcharging.

Even though a State of Emergency has not been declared in our area, consumer rules are in effect to prevent gouging when items are in short supply during extraordinary circumstances.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said face masks are in short supply.

"There is a shortage of face masks in New York City, which can prevent stores from price gouging," de Blasio said in a recent news briefing. "If anyone sees gouging around surgical masks please call 311 and report it. "

The city's Department of Consumer and Worker Protection says once short supply is declared, stores cannot excessively increase prices, require the purchase of a minimum quantity or deny consumer equal opportunity to purchase items.

Coronavirus-related products are selling off shelves but Amazon has plenty at astronomical prices.

The online retailer announced it removed and blocked more than a million products from it's vendors for price gouging items like Purell.

Hand sanitizers are not declared in short supply yet, but even at stores that are selling them for $50 per pump, they're sold out.

The city is investigating all complaints to see if drastic price hikes are justified. Merchants will have a chance to provide evidence if a disruptive market caused their excessive prices.

If you think you're a victim of price gouging report it to your local consumer affairs agencies. In New York City call 311.

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