What is price gouging?

Practice has become increasingly prevalent amid COVID-19 pandemic

Price gouging is the act of inflating the price of a product in response to high demand for the item.

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The term has most recently been used in reference to the spike in the prices of highly coveted or limited-availability items needed during the novel coronavirus pandemic, such as N95 masks and other kinds of personal protective equipment.

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As the public became increasingly concerned about the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for medical supplies and health care products skyrocketed, which prompted some bad actors to charge exorbitant prices.

Medical supplies and a stretcher displayed before a news conference at the Jacob Javits Center in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, Fle)

HOW DO I REPORT A CORONAVIRUS SCAM?

The United States Public Interest Research Group outlined the following ways for people to steer clear of price gouging:

  • Keep an eye out for “extraordinarily high prices.” This seems obvious, but shoppers shouldn’t be worried as much about a typical, slight price increase; rather, they should be wary of companies or people charging more than 20 percent the typical cost, which, in many states, is an indicator of price gouging.
  • Compare the costs of similar prices, which would likely be priced around the same
  • Err on the side of caution. If you’re suspicious or unsure, better to report it than not to.

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The group also provides a list of ways for consumers to report suspected price gouging based on state.

Anyone who believes they have information pertaining to COVID-19-related price gouging is asked to contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud’s National Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or to complete the NCDF Web Complaint Form.

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