Florida, Georgia top prosecutors warn of COVID-19 price gouging

Floridians receive more than $240K in price gouging refunds

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody are keeping a sharp eye on attempts to swindle their citizens with price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Florida’s price gouging hotline has received 3,350 contacts from consumers about potential price gouging. Carr said his office has received 894 complaints of price gouging.

According to Moody, Floridians have received more than $240,000 in refunds from businesses because of inflated prices during the pandemic.

Moody activated the hotline March 10 after Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency because of the spread of the deadly respiratory disease.

Items covered by Florida’s price gouging law under the state of emergency include protective masks, sanitizing and disinfecting supplies, commercial cleaning supplies, personal protective equipment and COVID-19 test kits.

“We are responding in real time to complaints of price gouging and scams, making sure we are getting price adjustments, taking posts down, getting refunds for Floridians,” Moody said. “We are also making sure we are furthering those investigations by issuing preservation letters and subpoenas. So, that work will continue.”

More than 4,500 merchants have been contacted about price gouging allegations. Also, 185 online posts have been taken because items were listed with large price hikes.

People who violate the price gouging law can face civil penalties up to $1,000 per violation and up to $25,000 for multiple violations committed in a 24-hour period.

The top three complaints in Georgia involve food, paper products like toilet paper and paper towels, and disinfectants like hand sanitizer and bleach.

Both Moody and Carr urge anyone in their states who finds price gouging online or in a store to report it directly to their office. It could mean money back in your pocket if you fell victim to one of these scams.

To report coronavirus-related price gouging in Florida, call the hotline at 1-866-9NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226). You can also report price gouging online by visiting MyFloridaLegal.com.

In Georgia, price gouging can be reported online here: http://consumer.ga.gov/form/price-gouging/step1/price-gouging-form.

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