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Attorney General James sues wholesaler who allegedly price gouged Queens grocers

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/File Photo

BY JACOB KAYE

New York State Attorney General Letitia James is suing a wholesale grocery company that allegedly sold over 46,000 cans of disinfectant spray at inflated prices during the COVID-19 crisis.

Quality King Distributors and its CEO Glenn Nussdorf, have been charged with illegally increasing the company’s prices for Lysol spray, which it sold to neighborhood grocery and discount stores in New York, including 60 stores in Queens.

Prior to the pandemic, Quality King, a family owned company founded in 1961 in Queens, sold 19-ounce cans of Lysol for about $4.25, according to the attorney general. During the pandemic, the wholesaler sold Lysol for as high as $9.15 a can and engaged in over 430 transactions in which they charged an inflated price, James claims.

“Quality King’s profiteering during this time of crisis is appalling,” James said. “Instead of ensuring New Yorkers could protect themselves from this virus and stop the spread, Quality King chose to prey on a global pandemic to line its own pockets. I won’t hesitate to take action against any company that tries to cheat New Yorkers during this crisis and beyond.”

The lawsuit alleges that by increasing the price, Quality King’s consumers passed the charge onto New Yorkers, who ended up paying as much as $16.99 for Lysol cans at local grocers.

“Throughout the pandemic, costs to keep the supply chain open have materially increased in many ways including the costs of implementing protective measures to preserve the health and safety of Quality King’s employees,” said Pat Beh Werblin, a spokesperson for the company. “Therefore, we were disappointed to hear that the New York State Attorney General was filing suit under the State’s vague price gouging statute without taking into consideration the many challenges to our business.”

“We strongly disagree with the Attorney General’s claims and we look forward to vigorously contesting these claims in court,” Werblin added.

James first learned of the alleged price gouging after receiving complaints from consumers about local grocers’ high prices.

According to James, despite Quality King’s price increase, their suppliers’ price remained flat, around $3.54 per can. During the pandemic, the company was able to boost its profit margin on the Lysol cans to about 95 percent, James alleges.

The attorney general’s lawsuit against Quality King was filed in New York State Supreme Court for New York County. James is suing for a permanent injunction barring the company and Nussdorf from continuing to charge inflated prices for pandemic supplies.

The lawsuit also calls for the company to give restitution to customers who bought their products, pay a civil penalty and to return the profits Quality King gained while charging the alleged inflated prices.

This story first appeared on qns.com.

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