As price gouging restrictions remain in place in many states and municipalities, new and ongoing enforcement actions continue to advance or settle. Over the past several weeks, we have seen a number of noteworthy developments in the most watched price gouging matters.
On July 2, 2021, a group of consumers filed a putative class action in Washington District Court alleging Amazon engaged in unlawful price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic on a variety of products. The case is noteworthy because Washington does not have a specific price gouging statute. Instead, plaintiffs argue that the alleged price gouging is an “unfair or deceptive act or practice in the conduct of any trade or commerce” in violation of Washington Consumer Protection Act (“WCPA”). Commentators have speculated that one of the purposes for filing in Washington is to pursue, in a state court, nationwide damages from Amazon.
Although many states of emergency have expired, new lawsuits that allege price gouging continue to be filed. On September 3, 2021, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a complaint in Minnesota state court against Sparboe Farms, Inc. alleging the company engaged in price gouging for the sale of eggs in violation of the Minnesota Governor’s executive order.
Many companies have increased prices in recent months. Reportedly, across the economy, prices “rose by 5 percent in May compared with a year ago.” Restaurants are raising prices to cover the cost of increases in wages in a tight labor market. The prices of used and rental cars are quickly rising, due to low inventory and higher demand. Gasoline prices have risen, and not just as a result of the recent cyberattack.
The Sixth Circuit issued its opinion in the Online Merchants Guild v. Cameron case on April 29, 2021, dissolving a preliminary injunction that had prevented the Kentucky Attorney General from investigating alleged violations of Kentucky’s price gouging laws, and remanding to the district court for further proceedings.
In a unanimous opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court held that Section 13(b) of the FTC Act does not authorize the Federal Trade Commission to seek monetary relief in the form of restitution or disgorgement, despite the agency’s redoubled practice of seeking such relief under the Act since 2012. The Court’s…
As companies continue to examine their pricing in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, state attorneys general and private plaintiffs continue to bring suits under state price gouging laws. The complaints include requests for a range of remedies, including injunctions, disgorgement, restitution, fines, or other financial penalties. With the majority of price gouging laws having now been in effect for almost a year, we have seen businesses and state attorneys general enter into a variety of settlements. These settlements are a useful tool for businesses looking to gauge their risk as it relates to price gouging enforcement and compliance.
The gravity of the pandemic is palpable, and seemingly constant news about it is hard to escape, with recent reports including updates on the availability of vaccines, the changing scope of various stay-at-home orders, and the perceived risks of new COVID-19 variants. But there will come a time—perhaps sooner than the pessimists predict—when this will no longer be the all-consuming story it has been for the past ten months. In this post, we address a few of the strongest reasons that most pricing restrictions may be lifted before the start of the next school year.