Know Your Rights- Price Gouging
We’ve all seen the stories on the news: toilet paper and cleaning supplies are hard to find. Prices for these essential items are skyrocketing online. What can you do if you find a seller who charges a premium for these in demand items?
Most states have laws against price gouging that come into effect under certain emergencies, such as a global pandemic. Both Missouri and Illinois are included in those states.
In Missouri, the Attorney General is given the power to restrict certain unfair practices in the sale of products. The Attorney General, in turn, has created Title 15 of the Code of State Regulations, which lists specific unfair practices and their punishments. This includes price gouging, which makes it a violation of state law to “charge within a disaster area an excessive price for any necessity.”
Because Missouri has declared a state of emergency, this law applies to the entirety of the state. Anyone in violation of this law can be charged with a class E felony or liable for damages up to $1000 per violation in a civil suit. A class E felony carries a range of punishment of up to four (4) years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
In Illinois, the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act and Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act prohibit “increases in the prices of goods and services during a disaster.” While no specific punishments are defined, a victim of price gouging could be successful in a civil suit for compensatory and punitive damages. Like Missouri, Illinois has also declared a state of emergency, and these laws are in effect.
Finally, both states have consumer protection agencies, either within the Attorney General’s Office or additional departments, which take complaints when these laws are violated.
Contact an Experienced Attorney If You Have Witnessed Price Gouging
If you think you may be the victim of price gouging or a similar violation of a consumer protection law, contact Bruntrager and Billings on our website or by phone at 314-646-0066.