Several readers have written in asking for an explanation of price gouging. The possibility for it happening obviously exists as certain items in great demand because of the coronavirus pandemic have become scarce and more costly.
Question: Kay McFadden wrote: “WSR: Please dig a little to let us know how the city determines price gouging. Do inspectors look at the wholesale prices that the business paid for certain items and then what the retail was to customers? Or does the city use some kind of average pricing sheet to determine over-charging?”
Answer: On March 16, 2020, the NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) announced an emergency rule that made illegal “price gouging for any personal or household good or any service that is needed to prevent or limit the spread of or treat the new coronavirus (COVID-19),” it said in a press release. Examples of such products include:
Diagnostic products and services
Disinfectants (wipes, liquids, sprays)
“It is illegal to increase prices of these types of goods and services by 10% or more,” the release stated.
If you raised the price of these items because it costs you more to supply them, you must provide proof to DCWP.
Be aware that any increase must be comparable. If you paid $2 more per item, you cannot charge customers $50 more.
Were you overcharged? If you think a store excessively increased the price of these items beginning in March, file a complaint online or call 311 and say “Overcharge.”