Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced that she is declaring face masks temporarily in short supply to prevent stores from overcharging New Yorkers. Although health officials advise against the purchase of face masks for healthy individuals, the shortage continues. The declaration, which will be in effect tomorrow, makes it temporarily illegal to drastically increase prices.
“Preying on people who are concerned for the health of themselves and their loved ones for a profit will not be tolerated in NYC, ” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “As we started to see empty shelves and more stores charging hundreds of dollars, we knew the City had to step in to prevent price gouging. I myself went to a store last weekend after hearing reports of overcharging and was charged $212 for a box of 10 masks—which is astronomical. This practice stops now.”
“Price gouging of any kind is unacceptable and will not be tolerated here in New York City,” said NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell. “While this declaration does not impact the City’s stockpile of personal protective equipment, we are keeping a close eye on our supply chain and will continue to coordinate any requests with the Health Department, as well as our state and federal partners, to make sure we have the resources needed to continue standard operations.”
“While we do not advise healthy New Yorkers wear masks, they do provide a public health benefit in some situations,” said NYC Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “Price gouging medical supplies is unconscionable and I am pleased that the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection is taking steps to stop it.”
Under the Rules of the City of New York ( §5-38), the commissioner can declare certain items temporarily in short supply during extraordinary circumstances. Stores selling items that have been declared in short supply cannot excessively increase prices, require the purchase of a minimum quantity of the item, deny consumers equal opportunity to purchase the item or require consumers to purchase another item to get the item in short supply.
DCWP will be inspecting stores and responding to consumer complaints. Stores found to be overcharging consumers will be issued a violation with a fine up to $500. The declaration expires in 30 days but can be canceled or extended by the commissioner.
Health officials do not advise healthy individuals to buy face masks for nonmedical use. DCWP encourages consumers who are overcharged to file a complaint at nyc.gov/dcwp or by contacting 311.
DCWP also reminds New Yorkers that they have the right to sick leave and should use it if they are feeling ill. Under the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, employers with five or more employees who work more than 80 hours per the calendar year in New York City must provide paid safe and sick leave to employees.
Employers with fewer than five employees must provide unpaid safe and sick leave. Covered employees have the right to use safe and sick leave for the care and treatment of themselves or a family member. Employers and employees can visit nyc.gov/workers or call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside NYC) for more information.
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