Legislation to crack down on COVID-19 “virus profiteers” authored by Assemblywoman Nily Rozic was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo less than two weeks after it was passed in Albany.
The measure bans egregious gouging, particularly of critical medical supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer, that are desperately needed by hospitals and other health care facilities.
“From the beginning of this pandemic we’ve seen too many instances of retailers taking advantage of this dire situation and charging exorbitant prices for critical medical supplies,” Cuomo said. “By banning price gouging on personal protective equipment, we are helping to ensure our health care workers, who have been working tirelessly to save lives at great personal danger to themselves, and the public have access to these supplies while holding these unscrupulous retailers accountable to attempting to capitalize on the fear of others.”
The new law gives Attorney General Letitia James more flexibility to identify goods and services where the price gouging laws should apply while increasing the maximum civil penalty for price gouging to $25,000 per violation.
“New Yorkers can rest assured that our office will fight every day to ensure that they are not taken advantage of during the coronavirus pandemic or any other emergency our state may face in the future,” James said. “Since this pandemic began, we have received over 7,000 price gouging complaints related to COVID-19 and gone after the bas actors behind these unlawful acts, but today’s law will vastly expand our efforts to protect New Yorkers’ wallets, as well as the bottom lines of small businesses and taxpayer dollars. We are focused on protecting all New Yorkers now and in the future.”
Previously, New York’s price gouging status covered only “consumer goods and services,” preventing the Attorney General’s office from going after non-consumer goods or non-consumer sales.
“This legislation strengthens and expands the New York state price gouging statute after the COVID-19 pandemic exposed glaring flaws in the law,” Rozic said. “This new law will ensure that New Yorkers have access to the products and care required without paying excessive and unreasonable prices. As we face new challenges to contain the pandemic, we must protect consumers when they are particularly vulnerable.”
Manhattan state Senator Brad Hoylman, who carried the bill in the upper chamber, had a warning for future offenders.
“Pandemic profiteers need to get the hell out of New York,” Hoylman said. “It’s outrageous that these lowlifes have tried to make a quick buck off of our state’s valiant efforts to save the lives of COVID-19 patients and protect frontline medical workers from infection, so I’m glad our bill signed into law today will significantly expand New York’s price gouging statute to allow Attorney General Tish James to crack down on price gougers.”