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Price gouging and COVID-19


Gov. Whitmer issued an executive order this week to specifically address price-gouging related to COVID-19. That order states the following:

No one who has acquired any product from a retailer shall resell that product in this state at a price that is grossly in excess of the purchase price at which they bought the product;

No one shall offer for sale or sell any product in this state at a price that is more than 20 percent higher than what the person offered or charged for that product as of March 9, 2020 unless the person demonstrates that the price increase is attributable to an increase in the cost of bringing the product to market;

Person means an individual, business or other legal entity;

Product means any good, material, emergency supply or consumer food item;

These restrictions went into effect at 9 a.m. Monday and remain in place until 11:59 p.m. April 13, 2020.

“We take this order seriously, as we do everything related to protecting Michigan consumers,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said. “And we have seen a dramatic increase in complaints related to price-gouging and we have taken action on those complaints. Businesses cannot and will not use this state of emergency as an economic opportunity.”

Nessel’s office had received 572 price-gouging complaints as of 11 p.m. Tuesday. Several businesses have been contacted by the Attorney General’s office to gather more information on their consumer-reported price-gouging.

Face masks, hand sanitizers, cleaning supplies, bottled water and other food items are some of the products that have reportedly been on store shelves for exceptionally high prices, likely in violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. Other products consumers might seek to purchase due to the threat of COVID-19 may also be at risk of price-gouging practices.

In addition to this Executive Order, retailers may violate 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; and

Causing coercion and duress as the result of the time and nature of a sales presentation.

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

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