AG: Watch out for coronavirus-related price-gouging

    Attorney General library | Susan J. Demas

    Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel wars residents to beware of businesses engaging in potential price-gouging in light of the state emergency declared Tuesday for coronavirus (COVID-19). Michigan residents are urged to report any violation of the Consumer Protection Act online or by calling 877-765-8388.

    The AG office is aware of businesses selling face masks, hand sanitizers and cleaning supplies at exceptionally high prices – likely in violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. Other products that consumers might seek to purchase due to the threat of COVID-19 may also be at risk of price-gouging practices.

    Retailers may be in violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act if they are:

    • Charging the consumer a price that is grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold; and
    • Causing coercion and duress as the result of the time and nature of a sales presentation.

    Here’s what you can do to stop the spread of coronavirus

    “Supply and demand might be a familiar saying for retailers, but price-gouging is against the law and protecting consumers against unfair business practices is a service my office provides to residents,” Nessel said. “My Consumer Protection team reviews all complaints we receive and determines whether appropriate legal action should be taken. I encourage any consumer who believes they may be a victim of price-gouging to file a report with my office so that we can follow up on those concerns to hold accountable the people who are illegally profiting off of Michiganders’ fears and take legal action if necessary.”

    The attorney general’s office last week contacted a west Michigan retailer for reportedly selling individual face masks at exorbitant prices. A discussion with the business owner took place, followed by a letter requiring the business to provide specific information to avoid formal action or investigation.

    The latest coronavirus information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) is available online, and at the site for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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    Susan J. Demas is a 19-year journalism veteran and one of the state’s foremost experts on Michigan politics, appearing on MSNBC, CNN, NPR and WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record.” In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief, she is the Advance’s chief columnist, writing on women, LGBTQs, the state budget, the economy and more. Most recently, she served as Vice President of Farough & Associates, Michigan’s premier political communications firm. For almost five years, Susan was the Editor and Publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, the most-cited political newsletter in the state. Susan’s award-winning political analysis has run in more than 80 national, international and regional media outlets, including the Guardian U.K., NBC News, the New York Times, the Detroit News and MLive. She is the only Michigan journalist to be named to the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Reporters,” the Huffington Post’s list of “Best Political Tweeters” and the Washington Post’s list of “Best Political Bloggers.” Susan was the recipient of a prestigious Knight Foundation fellowship in nonprofits and politics. She served as Deputy Editor for MIRS News and helped launch the Michigan Truth Squad, the Center for Michigan’s fact-checking project. She started her journalism career reporting on the Iowa caucuses for The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Susan has hiked over 3,000 solo miles across four continents and climbed more than 60 mountains. She also enjoys dragging her husband and two teenagers along, even if no one else wants to sleep in a tent anymore.