NASHVILLE, Tenn (WTVF) — Last week, Governor Bill Lee issued a state emergency declaration to facilitate the treatment and containment of COVID-19. The declaration is designed to make sure medical professionals have the tools they need to help treat and slow the spread of the Coronavirus.
The declaration also triggered the state’s anti-price gouging law. The law prohibits vendors from charging too much during a crisis tied to a state of emergency. The Tennessee Attorney General's Office says price gouging law in Tennessee is, "unfair or deceptive acts or practices law makes it illegal to "unreasonably [raise] prices or unreasonably [restrict] supplies of essential goods, commodities or services in direct response to . . . a natural disaster."
"We Tennesseans help our neighbors not profit from them but there will be those individuals and isolated cases that are taking advantage," said Deputy Attorney General Jeff Hill with the Consumer Protection unit.
Hill says in the wake of COVID-19 the office has received complaints on outrageous prices on hand sanitizer, disinfectant, masks and other medical supplies.
"We have seen a couple of complaints about toilet paper and we’re following up on those as well," said Hill.
Over the weekend the State Attorney's Office was notified of two brothers selling nearly 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer online.
Matt and Noah Colvin of Hixson bought the items in various stores around Chattanooga and Kentucky. Matt Colvin told the New York Times some products he listed was $70 each. Hill says when they learned of this, the Attorney General's Office sent the brothers a cease and desist order.
Matt Colvin told reporters with WDEF he was donating the items to a local church.
Hill suggests stores experiencing high demand for items to put limits on the purchase of those items. if stores need to raise prices because they run out of certain items, they need to wait to that after the disaster.
"The prices they charge should be reasonable, it should not be grossly in excess then what they were charging before unless their prices have gone up to receive the goods, and their profits shouldn't be on the backs of Tennesseans in need."
The website for the Tennessee Attorney General's Office says high prices are not automatically classified as price gouging, and may be justifiable based on increased costs to the business.
Under the law, the Attorney General’s Office can put a stop to price gouging and seek refunds for consumers. The courts may also impose civil penalties ($1,000 per violation) against price gougers.
Click here to file a complaint: https://www.tn.gov/attorneygeneral/working-for-tennessee/consumer/file-a-complaint.html
If you need assistance with a complaint, please call 615-741-4737 or email firstname.lastname@example.org