Originally on WNCT

March 29, 2020

Price gouging has become a worry for people as stores run short of some things people consider essential to protect themselves from infection by the Covid-19.

After a state of emergency was declared in North Carolina, the attorney general was able to zero in on specific complaints.

Attorney General Josh Stein’s office says they are investigating nine North Carolina based sellers on Amazon who are accused of raising prices on coronavirus-related products, including hand sanitizer and N-95 masks.

Back on the first week of March, consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia reported he had found lots of items on Amazon that were selling for excessive amounts of money, like a box of disinfectant wipes for $89 and a small bottle of hand sanitizer for $79.

 

Now, AG Stein says Amazon found businesses and sellers in our state who reportedly raised prices on products more than 40% between February 10 and March 16.

Amazon says one group made more than $100,000 in sales as a result of those higher prices.

The AG is using the state’s price gouging law to investigate because it prohibits “charging a price that is unreasonably excessive under the circumstances.”

“For each violation it’s a penalty of up to $5,000 per violation, so it can be a huge number,” said Stein.

Here’s how the AG’s office goes about investigating those complaints.

“The typical process is we send a complaint to the business and say this is the evidence we have that you raised the price, do you have a business justification for why, and if so tell us,” said Stein.

If it ends up in court and an injunction is issued, fines and restitution are imposed.

“The first thing we want to do is make the customer who were disadvantaged whole, that’s consumer restitution,” said Stein.

Up to this point, the AG’s office says it’s received over 450 price gouging complaints.

All will have to be investigated to see if they violate the law.

You can file a complaint with his office by calling: 877-5-NO-SCAM

Or you can click here to file a complaint on line.