Florida price-gouging complaints continue to grow

Florida Attorney General: $130,000 in refunds have resulted from complaints to state

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Would you pay $295 for a face mask? What about $70 for a bottle of hand sanitizer, or $38 for some soap?

Those are just a few products with eyebrow-raising prices that have caught the attention of Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office as the state looks into price gouging complaints amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We will not relent in these efforts to protect Floridians from gouging and COVID-19 related scams,” Moody said.

Because of the nature of this public health emergency, much of the price gouging has resulted from products found online. But the attorney general’s office has been able to deactivate over 130 posts on multiple platforms.

Yet, it’s not just price gouging on Moody’s radar. There have also been complaints against employees of stores for things such as charging customers for products they did not purchase.

Angelina Simmons said she was charged $4.59 for a can of Lysol. Only one problem: she didn’t use it or buy it — in reality, a store clerk used the can to spray the countertop as Simmons approached.

“It was just weird because the cashier was very nonchalant,” Simmons recalled. “There was no explanation. I would just assume that maybe she was like, ‘Hey, we have to charge you for this,’ but none of that.”

The chain of stores involved in that incident apologized for the confusion and told state authorities that Simmons had been charged mistakenly. The store has since offered the customer a refund.

Asked about that incident, Gov. Ron DeSantis had this advice for store employees working on the front lines: “Just keep calm, carry on and let’s get through this.”

The state currently has 59 active subpoenas out looking for information related to price gouging. The attorney general’s office noted that more than $130,000 has been refunded in response to complaints made to the state.

It’s a good reminder for merchants that price gouging and other dodgy practices can hurt their business in more ways than one.

“I don’t think I will be back,” Simmons said of the store she visited.