price gouging

Price Gouging Complaints In Connecticut Up Along With Rising COVID-19 Cases

The state Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau are getting reports of price hikes on masks and at-home test kits

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As omicron cases are going up, so is something else: the cost of important supplies in the fight against COVID-19.

The Connecticut Attorney General's Office is getting complaints of price hikes on things like masks and at-home test kits, while the Connecticut Better Business Bureau warns of COVID-19 related scams.

With new advice from health officials to switch from cloth to medical grade masks, demand for N95 masks and the like is going up, along with prices.

On Amazon, a 30-pack of KN95 masks sold for $37 on January 29th. Friday, nearly a week later, that same pack costs $59.

"That's something that should be reported on Amazon," Jackie MacKnight, Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, said. "There are going to be those less than transparent sellers."

It is not just masks. The Attorney General's Office has gotten 750 complaints about price gouging related to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.

"It's illegal to take advantage of customers, it's illegal to price gouge, it's illegal to charge a price far more than the normal retail price because of the emergency. And we will prosecute people for price gouging," Attorney General William Tong said.

Right now the AG's Office is looking into about 10 complaints related to at-home test kits, which state that local pharmacies are selling tests at prices ranging from $25 to well over $100.

Tong says his office is investigating each complaint, but sometimes these price spikes come from suppliers.

"Sometimes the retailer is just charging a reasonable mark up on what they bought it for from the supplier, or the wholesaler, distributor, manufacturer. And sometimes the price gouging is happening up a level or two," he said.

That is why Tong is pushing for a change in Connecticut legislation that would give the Attorney General the authority to tackle price gouging on the supplier level.

"Connecticut businesses are in a tough spot too, just as Connecticut residents," Tong said.

On top of watching your wallet, the Connecticut Better Business Bureau is warning people to watch out for scams.

"There have been an uptick in fake test related scams," MacKnight said.

That includes bootleg tests being sold online, and even unauthorized people at testing sites handing out fake tests or gathering personal information. That is something the BBB is seeing in other states and working to prevent in Connecticut.

"There have been issues in their areas where people are setting up fake clinics, which is really scary," MacKnight said. "So you have to really make sure you're going to a reputable place." 

If you suspect price gouging or a scam, report it to the Attorney General, the Better Business Bureau, or the Department of Consumer Protection.

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