AG Shapiro Tells Federal Appeals Court States Must Be Able to Regulate Price Gouging

September 24, 2020 | Topic: Consumers

HARRISBURG – Attorney General Josh Shapiro is fighting to protect consumers in Pennsylvania and throughout the country by urging a federal appeals court in Kentucky to reverse a lower court’s order that would prevent states from enforcing price gouging regulations during times of crisis.

Shapiro and a bipartisan coalition of 29 states filed an amicus brief this morning in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to overturn a lower court’s decision in Online Merchants Guild v. Cameron that prevents Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron from enforcing price gouging regulations against online retailers selling products on Amazon.

“As soon as Pennsylvania declared a state of emergency, we went to work to protect Pennsylvania consumers from being ripped off by price gougers asking exorbitant prices for essential goods and services, including food,” AG Shapiro said. “Since then we have fielded more than 5,600 complaints and have returned thousands of dollars to Pennsylvanians who paid too much for everything from hand sanitizer to water.”

Under Pennsylvania’s state of emergency, the Office of Attorney General has returned $36,000 in restitution to consumers via 22 settlements with companies, one lawsuit, and two subpoena enforcements.

“It’s critically important that Pennsylvania and other states have the power to stop bad actors who take advantage of others during a time of crisis,” AG Shapiro said.

In March, the Pennsylvania Attorney General led a multistate letter to Amazon, Facebook, Ebay, Walmart, and Craigslist asking them to more rigorously monitor price gouging practices by online sellers using their services.

In today’s brief, the coalition said state price gouging laws are essential to ensuring that goods can be fairly allocated among consumers, and to prevent bad actors from profiting by charging excessively high prices for goods.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many states have implemented social distancing measures in public places and recommended that residents stay home when possible. As a result, more consumers have turned to online sellers to purchase food, medicine, cleaning supplies and other household essentials. The Online Merchants Guild, claiming that price gouging laws should not be applied to retailers selling goods on Amazon, filed a lawsuit after the Kentucky Attorney General’s office began investigating several Kentucky-based retailers.

The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General’s actions – including working toward voluntary compliance, issuing subpoenas, sending cease and desist letters, and filing civil actions – have been crucial to curbing price gouging during the pandemic.

The coalition is asking the appellate court to reverse the district court’s order granting injunctive relief.

Joining Illinois Attorneys General Raoul AG Shapiro in filing the amicus brief are the Attorneys General of Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

# # #