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.
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.
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.
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.