Coronavirus News: Stores fined for COVID-19 price gouging

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- Price gouging is illegal during this state of emergency, but that doesn't stop some retailers from excessive pricing.

In New York City, a crackdown resulted in more than 2,700 violations. The Department of Consumer and Worker Protection says it received 7,200 gouging complaints.

Stores aren't allowed to charge more than 10-percent the regular price -- but is a low supply, and high demand driving costs up?

We found a one-gallon jug of Isopropyl Alcohol going for $95.99 at a small Bergen County grocery store.

That's twice the price of a fine bottle of French champagne and triple the online price for the same brand of alcohol favored by nail salons.

New York City doled out hefty gouging fines on sanitizer and face masks to pharmacies and supermarkets this week.

In Jersey City, Mayor Steve Fulop tweeted a police visit to a store that was fined $90,000 in one day for jacking up Clorox wipes and tissues.

"We are out here we're watching, and we're not going to stand for gouging in any way," Paul Rodriguez, New Jersey's Acting Director of Consumer Affairs, said.

Rodriguez reminds businesses that they will face $10,000 fines for the first violation and $20,000 for additional violations.

Retailers fined will be able to appeal with proof price hike justification.

"When we go in and investigate, we will check how much did you pay for your cost if you're raising your prices. It has to be because the cost to you is gone up," Rodriguez said.

While we still see the outrageous prices for paper towels, disinfectant, and face masks, some people report staples like milk eggs and chicken are creeping up in price too.

While in some cases, supplies are low and demand is high, some store owners say they haven't raised their prices at all because they are too busy trying to source product to keep on the shelves.

"My vendors that I have dealt with for years..they're not raising my prices," said Mark Marrone, the owner of Organica Natural Foods in Northvale, New Jersey.

Marrone says shoppers should be mindful not everything is more expensive, he's paying the same for milk and eggs as he did before COVID-19.

If you suspect price gouging report it to 3-1-1 or your local consumer affair office and order or shop somewhere else.


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