Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced that the Agency has extended its emergency price gouging Rule, which was scheduled to expire this week, for an additional 60 days. Under the emergency Rule, price gouging is illegal for any personal or household good or any service that is needed to prevent or limit the spread of or treat COVID-19. As part of the extension, DCWP has also proposed a new permanent Rule, which contemplates future emergencies by making price gouging illegal for any products or services essential to health, safety and welfare.
“We have made it clear we will not tolerate price gouging but unfortunately we still see some businesses are not listening,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “We will not have businesses take advantage of consumers during this public health emergency or any future emegencies we face. We urge consumers to file a complaint with our office. ”
DCWP is actively inspecting stores based on consumer complaints. Businesses found to be significantly overcharging consumers for any personal or household good or service that is needed to prevent or limit the spread of or treat COVID-19 will be issued a violation. Examples of covered products include disinfectants, soap, cleaning products, diagnostic products and services, and medicines. Since March 5, DCWP has received more than 9,700 complaints and issued more than 6,200 violations for price gouging.
Since March 25, DCWP has filed seven lawsuits against repeat offenders seeking up to $194,500 in fines for 389 price gouging violations. DCWP encourages consumers who are overcharged to file a complaint at nyc.gov/dcwp or by contacting 311 and saying “overcharge.” Consumers who believe they were victimized by price gouging should keep their receipts and any information about the store where the transaction occurred, and file a complaint with DCWP. If the price gouging occurred while DCWP’s regulations were in effect, DCWP can prosecute the illegal activity.
On March 15, the Agency promulgated an emergency Rule under the City’s Consumer Protection Law that makes price gouging illegal for any personal or household good or service that is needed to prevent or limit the spread of or treat new coronavirus (COVID-19). The Rule (6 RCNY §5-42) makes it illegal to increase prices by 10 percent or more during a 60 day period.
The Rule covers any personal or household good or service—such as disinfectants, soap, and cleaning products, diagnostic products and services, medicines, and tissues—that is needed to prevent or limit the spread of or treat COVID-19. The fine for price gouging is up to $500 per item or service. If businesses are paying more to obtain these items themselves, they must provide proof to DCWP and any increase must be comparable. If a business paid $2 more per item, they cannot charge customers $50 more.
DCWP will hold a public hearing on the proposed permanent rule on June 12, 2020 at 2:00 p.m. The public hearing will be accessible by phone and videoconference. Comments on the proposed rule can be submitted by speaking at the hearing, submitted online or by e-mail to RuleComments@dca.nyc.gov. The deadline to submit comments is June 12 by 2 p.m.
NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 75,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance.
Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCWP and its work, call 311 or visit DCWP at nyc.gov/dcwp or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.