COVID-19 pandemic leads to price gouging concerns

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HANOVER TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — The COVID-19 pandemic is now leading to price gouging as businesses try to profit from the crisis, state officials say.

According to Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the office has received thousands of complaints from residents about alleged price gouging and they are investigating any business they suspect.

“Here’s the thing I will not allow any merchant to take advantage of a Pennsylvanian during this time of crisis,” Shapiro told Eyewitness News.

Speaking from inside home, Shapiro said he isn’t pulling any punches. He says the still unfolding COVID-19 crisis can not be used to make a profit.

“We’re not going to stand for this we’re going to hold these merchants accountable,” Shapiro said. “We recognize there’s going to be some supply and demand issues and price fluctuations, that’s understandable, but once you are jacking up prices to make a buck off this crisis we are unwilling to accept that.”

Several investigations have already been opened in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

In Mount Pocono the cost of a case of water was increased from $3.99 to $5.99. A cease and desist letter was sent to the company in response.

In Lehighton, a pack of 6 rolls of toilet paper was priced at $9.99 when it usually costs about $3.99. A cease and desist letter was sent to the business as well.

In Hazleton, a store charged $12 dollars for a 40 bottle case of water. Its usual price is between $2.99 and $6.99

“We are following up on each and every one of these tips that comes in and we are making sure that person has changed their conduct,” Shapiro said. “The good news is most of them are. They are bringing the prices back down.”

Businesses face fines of up to $10,000 dollars per violation if they fail to cease and desist.

You can file a complaint by calling the consumer hotline number at (800) 441-2555 or by visiting the Pennsylvania Attorney General Website.

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