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The coronavirus pandemic has led to soaring prices among items such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer and face masks. The Better Business Bureau and Missouri Attorney General are urging consumers to exercise caution about these unethical — and usually illegal — tactics.
Amazon has reportedly removed more than 1 million product listings for price gouging or false claims of effectiveness against the virus, according to a BBB news release. A Joplin, Missouri, woman told BBB in March 2020 that a local gas station was charging $9.99 for a can of Lysol, far above the typical retail price.
“Raising prices to outlandish levels for critical supplies during a declared state of emergency is unethical and exploitative, especially when many consumers are frightened and frantic,” said Michelle Corey, BBB St. Louis president and CEO via news release. “Consumers will remember which businesses took advantage of them during a pandemic or other disaster.”
Report price gouging
Price gouging can be illegal. State attorneys general have already issued written warnings to businesses that have spiked prices on hand sanitizers and disinfectant sprays, according to the BBB.
BBB encouraged the public to file a complaint at bbb.org if they suspect price gouging by a specific business, according to its news release. Consumers also can report price gouging, as well as false advertising of coronavirus “cures,” to BBB AdTruth. The state attorney general’s office also takes complaints about price gouging.
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When you file a price gouging complaint, you need to gather as much information as safely possible and follow these three tips, according to the BBB:
- Be as specific about the transaction as possible, including the name and address of the business, names of any employees involved and information detailing the spike in pricing.
- Get documentation supporting the price gouging (receipts, photos of products and their advertised pricing, invoices, etc.).
- Compare pricing of similar products with other sellers in the area as well as online. It’s important to note similarities and differences between brands, size/quantity, manufacturers, model numbers, and prices.
BBB has more consumer and business tips specific to the coronavirus pandemic at bbb.org/coronavirus. For help go to bbb.org or call 888-996-3887.
COVID-19 Resources for seniors and veterans
As Missouri’s advocate for seniors and veterans, Missouri Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe encouraged individuals and family members to utilize the following resources for COVID-19 related-health information and reporting related scams, according to a news release from his office.
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“It is both an honor and a privilege to advocate for Missouri’s seniors and veterans,” Kehoe stated. “Unfortunately, during challenging times there will be those who seek to prey upon the vulnerability or misfortune of others. Often their targets are seniors and veterans.”
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Here is the list of resources:
Missouri Novel Coronavirus Information Hotline:
The Office of Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe
- Phone number: 573-751-4727
- Website: https://ltgov.mo.gov
- Email: email@example.com
Missouri Attorney General’s Office
- Consumer Protection Hotline: 1-800-392-8222
Department of Health and Senior Services
- Phone: 573-751-6400
- Website: https://health.mo.gov/
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Missouri Veterans Commission
- Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 (press 1)
- Phone: 573-751-3779
- Website: https://mvc.dps.mo.gov/index.php
- Email: email@example.com
Live coronavirus updates: Catch up here for the latest in Springfield and Missouri
Preparing for a disaster
The best way to avoid price gouging is to plan ahead for emergencies and have necessary supplies on hand. Ready.gov, a service of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has information on disaster and emergency preparation. The CDC is the best source of information on the current coronavirus pandemic.
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