As state investigators across the country launch price gouging investigations, one thing is becoming clear – state price gouging investigations can look a lot like antitrust investigations. Price gouging enforcement is at an all-time high, and more and more it is being combined with antitrust and unfair trade practice investigations. This overlap can be bad news for companies facing potential price gouging claims, and it further highlights the need for compliance with both price gouging and antitrust statutes. This article explores the interaction between antitrust enforcement and price gouging enforcement, and sets forth key issue-spotting guidance for companies that are potentially impacted.
Though much attention has been paid to state price gouging laws, several states without price gouging laws have nevertheless been active enforcers. Governors in many of these states have issued executive orders empowering their enforcers to target price gouging. Other states have repurposed existing laws to target price gouging. Price gouging in these states may pose greater compliance risk than in states with specific price gouging laws because these the states may not have statutory definitions or clear standards for what conduct constitutes unlawful price gouging. In this post, we consider price gouging rules and enforcement in states without price gouging-specific laws.
State Attorneys General are not the only ones enforcing price gouging laws in the current pandemic. Many states also provide a private right of action for victims of price gouging. Depending on the state, private litigants may seek injunctions, civil penalties, or even damages under state price gouging statutes and consumer protection laws. These remedies, and recent case filings, highlight the importance of price gouging compliance during this unprecedented global pandemic.
Proskauer’s antitrust practice group has developed a State Price Gouging Laws: A Coast-to-Coast Reference Guide to help your business manage price gouging compliance during the COVID-19 emergency. State price gouging measures cast a wide and varied range of coverage, such that compliance at the national level means knowing each state’s…
Price gouging complaints around the country have been skyrocketing and Michigan is no exception. Between March 5, 2019, and April 14, 2019, Michigan had 80 price gouging complaints. During the same period in 2020, Michigan received 3,541 complaints – an increase of 4,326 percent. Michigan has been under a state of emergency since March 10, 2020, which remains in effect indefinitely.
Over the past month, state enforcers have declared a war on price gouging, but some of the most effective enforcers have not been the states. Online platforms and other large retailers have taken extraordinary steps to restrict price gouging, and their monitoring has already led to hundreds of thousands of items pulled from e-commerce websites. With entire countries engaging in social distancing, e-commerce has become de-facto commerce for many, and this dramatic and sudden shift gives online sellers enormous influence on price gouging enforcement.
Due to the unprecedented length of the current COVID-19 emergency, price gouging laws that once focused solely on retail prices, now are being applied to participants throughout the entire supply chain. At the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency, state enforcers focused on increases in retail prices to consumers. However, enforcers…
When it comes to price gouging in the Lone Star State, Attorney General Ken Paxton is sending a message: don’t mess with Texas. On March 26, 2020, AG Paxton accused Auctions Unlimited, a Texas auctioneer, of price gouging disinfectant wipes, hand soaps, and 750,000 N95 respirator masks. Bidding for just 16 N95 respirator masks went as high as $180 – despite the owner receiving warnings from both AG Paxton and local police – before Texas authorities intervened and stopped the auction. The lawsuit seeks civil penalties of no more than $10,000 per violation, and $250,000 in the event the deception impacted anyone over 65 years of age.