Stores barred from price gouging items that could prevent spread of coronavirus

White protective sterile face masks on vintage wooden board
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An emergency rule has been put into place that will ban all retailers from price gouging on any personal or household good or any service that is needed to prevent or limit the spread of or treat new coronavirus.

On March 5, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) declared face masks in short supply, and followed up by declaring  hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes in short supply a few days later. Since then, DCWP has received complaints about items in short supply and price gouging for various items and has observed numerous items in short supply and being sold well above regular market prices.

Under this new rule, it is illegal for any store to raise the price for any product or service that could limit the spread of coronavirus by 10% or more.  The rule follows DCWP’s previous declaration that face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes are in short supply and expands the Agency’s ability to protect New Yorkers from price gouging.

The rule covers any personal or household good or service, such as disinfectants, soap, and cleaning products, diagnostic products and services, medicines, and tissues, that is needed to prevent or limit the spread of or treat coronavirus.

“Now is the time for us to come together, not take advantage of each other for a profit but we continue to hear about and see empty shelves and price gouging,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “We are using every tool in our toolbox to protect New Yorkers from price gouging during this public health emergency and I encourage consumers to file a complaint if they are overcharged. I also remind New Yorkers about their right to sick leave and encourage employers to let employees use additional sick leave if necessary so they can take care of themselves and not get coworkers or customers sick.”

DCWP is continuing to inspect stores based on consumer complaints. Any store found to be in violation of the new rule will be issued a violation and a fine, which can be as high as $500 per item or service. If businesses are paying more to supply these items, they must provide proof to DCWP.

The new rule, which went into effect on March 16, will remain active for 60 days, and the DCWP can extend this period if necessary.