Ala. AG taking steps to stop price gouging in response to coronavirus

Ala. AG taking steps to stop price gouging in response to coronavirus
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is taking the necessary steps to put a stop to price gouging brought on by the coronavirus. (Source: WNCN)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall is taking the necessary steps to put a stop to price gouging brought on by the coronavirus.

Alabama’s price gouging law went into effect right after Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state of emergency on March 13 in response to COVID-19. The law prohibits the “unconscionable pricing” of items for sale or rent.

According to Attorney General Steve Marshall, since the pandemic, there have been quite a few price gouging complaints.

"We've seen complaints from over half the counties and over hundreds of different areas," Marshall said. "Principally those that deal with food and the basic necessities."

Michelle Bishop suspected price gouging at her local grocer. Bishop said the price of hamburger meat nearly doubled over just a three-day period.

"The price of the meat went up, for the same meat, to $4.58 a pound so it nearly doubled in price," Bishop said. "It's just my husband and our son and I, so whenever they double the price on meat, that's one less dinner."

The State’s Attorney General has taken notice of these complaints and is taking steps to avoid price gouging in stores and online. Marshall has partnered with Facebook, Amazon, and eBay.

“We’re looking to make sure that we make partnerships that matter for the people of Alabama,” said Marshall. “For example if we receive constituent feedback, [like] there’s price gouging online with Amazon, then we have a direct point of contact and we can identify that particular area, and then Amazon, to be able to immediately pull down that site.”

So how do you to spot a price that doesn't seem right?

Alabama law says charging “unconscionable prices” for commodities or rental facilities is considered price gouging. So in other words, a price that is 25 percent or more above the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days. That is unless the increase can be attributed to a reasonable cost in connection with the rental or sale of the commodity.

If you spot price gouging, you are encouraged to report it on the Attorney General Offices Website.

“We encourage all Alabamians to go to our website. There is on our dashboard a consumer complaint area. That’ll come directly to us and then we’ll work either with our office or with local law enforcement to investigate whether or not that is something that we can shut down,” Marshall said.

The penalty for price gouging is a $1,000 fine and those who violate the law may be prohibited from doing business in Alabama.

To report price gouging you can also call 1-800-392-5658 and have a complaint file mailed to you to fill out and return.

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