CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The attorneys general in North Carolina and South Carolina have now received nearly 300 combined price gouging complaints related to Coronavirus.
The most egregious cases in both states involve someone trying to sell a single bottle of hand sanitizer for $90 or more.
In North Carolina, Attorney General Josh Stein reports more than 170 price gouging complaints in the first nine days of the state’s “State of Emergency.” The number increased by nearly 40 complaints in the last day.
About half of the total complaints are linked to groceries, but cleaning products and sanitizer, including a $94 bottle, are all represented.
“Our primary concern has to be about the public health, it has to be about keeping people healthy and well and alive, but we will not tolerate criminals trying to exploit people’s fears to make a quick buck,” Stein said.
Stein held a virtual town hall Thursday to answers questions from the public, knowing it’s difficult for consumers to determine which prices for essential products cross the legal line of “unreasonably excessive” and which prices are justified. He’s urging people to file even more complaints, so his office can investigate.
The South Carolina Office of Attorney General reports 98 complaints. A spokesperson said the most common complaint is for toilet paper, followed by sanitizer and food. The state reports 37 of the complaints to involve online vendors.
“We will go through all of these and make a determination as to whether they warrant further investigation,” Communications Director Robert Kittle said. “An example of one that warrants further investigation is a store selling a one-liter bottle of hand sanitizer for $90.”
Kittle said those warranting further investigation will be turned over to local law enforcement to investigate.
From toilet paper packs sold roadside in Charlotte to an advertisement online for toilet paper pallets and truckloads out of Rock Hill, Coronavirus translates to cash for some. While some sellers are well-intentioned, Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont and Western North Carolina President/CEO Tom Bartholomy knows others are looking to profit off the public’s panic.
“It’s just added fuel to the fire of people’s anxiety over the entire situation,” he said.
North Carolina and South Carolina are lucky in that there are price gouging laws here. In 16 other states, that’s not the case.
Even so, many of the problematic sellers are out of the state and country. Bartholomy is warning people to stay away from foreign sites for that reason.
“If you’re going to buy 50 face masks from some random website out of China, you might want to think twice about that,” he said. “Not only are you getting gouged on price, they’re stealing your identity at the same time.”
People in North Carolina can file price gouging complaints HERE
In South Carolina, people can email examples or documentation to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (803) 737-3953 and leave a message.