We are living in unprecedented times which, unfortunately, provides unprecedented opportunities for criminals to take advantage of consumers. Criminals are finding ways to take advantage of the fear and uncertainty that many consumers feel during this time. This leaves consumers with questions on how to best protect themselves and avoid scam-artists preying on people at their most vulnerable.
Ohio, like many other states has seen price-gouging on items necessary for the health and safety of its citizens. This includes items like toilet paper, latex gloves, face masks, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer. The Ohio Attorney General recently filed a lawsuit against an Ohio resident and his co-conspirators who were selling N95 masks at 18 times the retail price. The group purchased around 1,200 N95 masks and began selling them on eBay at over $35.00 per mask. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the retail price was $2.05 per mask. Ohio healthcare workers reached out to the seller, pleading with him to lower the prices to make those essential products more readily available to consumers. Their pleas went unanswered.
This leaves consumers asking what can be done to stop this. Currently, Ohio does not have a statute that deals directly with price gouging. However, other provisions of Ohio law may be used to take action against those preying on consumers.
Under the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, a practice is unconscionable if the business knew at the time of the sale that the price was substantially higher than normal, or if the business directly increased the price of in-stock products based solely off current events.
The Valentine Act, Ohio’s antitrust law, provides the Attorney General’s office with the authority to protect the public and foster fair and honest interstate and intrastate competition by filing lawsuits against those who attempt to restrain trade or monopolize markets in Ohio. Buying items in bulk and selling them in excess of the retail price is exactly the type of unfair practice this Act was designed to stop.
Additionally, the Ohio Attorney General’s office has been working on a new anti-price gouging law that does not rely on price controls. The proposed legislation aims to define unconscionable practices as they relate to price gouging.
If you believe that you are a victim of a price-gouging scheme or have questions about Ohio’s consumer protection laws, our lawyers are trained and prepared to help guide you.
Disclaimer: The information you obtain on this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice.