NEWARK – Inspectors from the NJ Division of Community Affairs notified more than 80 businesses to cease and desist price gouging relative to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said in a release Tuesday, March 17 that the division has received complaints about price gouging and is dedicating resources to investigate complaints.
“We are taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to consumer complaints about price gouging and other abuses related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Grewal said. “People are looking to us for guidance and protection, and it’s our job to be there for them in every way we can.”
Grewal said the division has made protecting the public a top priority.
He said the division logged a total of 619 complaints as of 2 p.m., March 17, double the amount since March 12 when the tally stood at 270. Nearly all the complaints were received after March 4.
Complaints include allegations retailers are unfairly raising prices on surgical masks, hand sanitizers, disinfectant sprays and wipes, food, bottled water and other items being purchased by consumers seeking to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
The DCA completed 159 inspections and issued 82 cease and desist letters and 13 subpoenas for additional information.
Gov. Phil Murphy triggered the state’s price gouging law when he declared a state of emergency on March 9.
The law prohibits excessive price increases during the state of emergency and 30 days after it is terminated. A price increase is considered excessive if it is more than 10% higher the normal.
Price gouging penalties are $10,000 for the first offense, $20,000 for second and subsequent offenses.
The division is also alerting consumers about scams during the crisis:
Don’t let CDC imposters into your home
Don’t fall for fake cures or supposed preventive medicines
Look out for phishing emails
Avoid COVID-19 information that does not come from a trusted source
Be wary of unsolicited calls offering health insurance, including Medicare/Medicaid benefits
Never give out your personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call
Avoid pet adoption scams or requests to send money overseas to adopt a pet in quarantine.
Anyone who believes price gouging is occurring should contact the Division of Consumer Affairs at 973-504-6240 or file on the division’s website at https://www.njconsumeraffairs.gov/