Nessel warns consumers of price-gouging

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is warning residents to beware of businesses engaging in potential price-gouging, and to report those suspected offenses to her office immediately.

The advice follows the state’s emergency declaration late Tuesday due to the discovery of Michigan's first positive cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The Michigan Department of Attorney General is aware of businesses selling face masks, hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies at exceptionally high prices – likely in violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. Other products that consumers might seek to purchase due to the threat of COVID-19 may also be at risk of price-gouging practices.

“Supply and demand might be a familiar saying for retailers, but price-gouging is against the law and protecting consumers against unfair business practices is a service my office provides to residents,” Nessel said. “My Consumer Protection team reviews all complaints we receive and determines whether appropriate legal action should be taken. I encourage any consumer who believes they may be a victim of price-gouging to file a report with my office so that we can follow up on those concerns to hold accountable the people who are illegally profiting off of Michiganders’ fears and take legal action if necessary.”

The Attorney General’s Office last week contacted a west Michigan retailer for reportedly selling individual face masks at exorbitant prices. A discussion with the business owner took place, followed by a letter requiring the business to provide specific information to avoid formal action or investigation.

Retailers may be in violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act if they are:

    • Charging the consumer a price that is grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold.
    • Causing coercion and duress as the result of the time and nature of a sales presentation.

The Attorney General’s Office is actively tracking consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and is evaluating the reports to determine what actions to take.

Michigan residents are urged to report any violation of the Consumer Protection Act online or by calling 877-765-8388.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available online at a state website, www.michigan.gov/Coronavirus, and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov/coronavirus.

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