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‘We will aggressively pursue those ... taking advantage of Floridians’

Florida Attorney General’s team fighting back against price gouging

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida’s Attorney General wants retailers across the state to know price gouging during this coronavirus pandemic will not be tolerated and anyone caught doing it faces a stiff fine.

The Attorney General’s office just resolved a case in Jacksonville involving the Turner Ace Hardware store on Arlington Road.

The I-TEAM obtained the complaint that states the store-bought cleaning and disinfecting products from a discount store and then put those items up for sale at an inflated price.

We’re told when Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Rapid Response Team reached out to Turner Ace, the store donated the items to the local Salvation Army.

In a statement to WJXT, the owner of Turner Ace, Steve Turner, wrote:

“My store ran out of toilet paper and the ace warehouse was out so I went to Dollar General and bought $100 of toilet paper plus tax. I don’t like to be out of items my customers are wanting. I marked it up to cover the product cost, my overhead and made 5% net. The attorney generals office called Monday,I took the product off the shelf and I gave the unsold half to charity.”

It’s important to note WJXT has a long-standing relationship with the local Ace Hardware stores, and we have partnered with them on several projects. We also want you to know each local Ace Hardware store is independently owned.

Since the coronavirus emergency began, the Attorney General’s Price Gouging Hotline has received nearly 700 consumer complaints about stores and online sales, and its Consumer Protection Division is working aggressively so Floridians are able to purchase essential commodities associated with the COVID-19 state of emergency.

“I am working diligently every day, hand in hand with our price gouging team. Those that want to come out and take advantage of Floridians during a time like this need to know they can get fined $1,000 per violation up to $25,000, a day,” Moody told the I-TEAM. “They also need to know we’re working hand in hand with our criminal partners across the state. We will aggressively pursue those that are taking advantage of Floridians -- whether that’s through price gouging or through scams -- and we will hold people accountable.”

Moody says her team has worked in real-time with major online platforms like Amazon, eBay and Facebook Marketplace to remove dozens of posts from third party sellers offering essential products at egregious prices -- with the top three complaints involving cleaning and disinfecting supplies, hand sanitizer and face masks.

You can make a complaint online or call the Price Gouging hotline at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM (1-866-966-7226).