Queens lawmaker introduces legislation to prohibit price gouging of medical supplies amid coronavirus scare

Coronavirus Outbreak
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As New Yorkers prepare for the coronavirus, State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic is introducing a new legislation to crack down on price gouging of consumer medical supplies during a public health emergency. 

Rozic and State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) said the legislation amends New York’s price gouging statute to establish that “unconscionable excessive price” is a price greater than 10 percent higher than before a public health emergency plan. 

The bill would prohibit selling consumer medical supplies – sanitizer, face masks, and over-the-counter medications — during a public health crisis at an unconscionably excessive price. It would also empower the New York Attorney General to enforce a civil penalty of up to $25,000 against business proven to have participated in price gouging. 

“As we anticipate new cases of COVID-19 in New York, we must continue taking appropriate steps to reduce the spread of the virus and misinformation,” Rozic said. “The most important thing we can do amidst this public health emergency is focus on staying healthy – not take advantage of consumers’ fears to empty out shelves and cause widespread panic.”

In response to growing fears of the coronavirus, retailers have begun price gouging on consumer medical supplies. Prices on items such as face masks and hand sanitizers have skyrocketed due to apparent price gouging from retailers or distributors.

 In areas of the world where coronavirus is most prevalent, price gouging is a major issue: Amazon announced tens of thousands of third-party listings unfairly charging customers for medical supplies, and countries including Italy and Australia have already seen massive price gouging. 

Currently, 34 states and the District of Columbia have price gouging statues. While New York law does not currently define what an “unconscionable excessive” price increase is, states including California and New Jersey have established a 10 percent increase as the threshold for price gouging. 

“It’s said after the storm come the vultures — and that’s exactly what could happen here if we don’t act now to stop price gouging in anticipation of the coronavirus here in New York,” Hoylman said. “Profiting off fear of disease is unconscionable. We can’t allow shady businesses to hike prices on the supplies New Yorkers need to stay safe and healthy, like hand sanitizer and face masks.” 

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