$150 toilet paper? SC AG’s office gets over 600 price gouging complaints during outbreak

Coronavirus

COLUMBIA, SC (WBTW) – The South Carolina Attorney General’s office has received hundreds of price gouging complaints since a state of emergency was declared due to the novel coroanvirus.

To be exact, the AG’s office says it has received 617 complaints. Among them are claims of $150 rolls of toilet paper and $30 N-95 masks.

“Cases that we’ve logged from all over the state and online,” Communications Director at the AG’s office Robert Kittle said. “They vary. We’re getting a lot for things like toilet paper, food, especially meat and eggs. Any kind of hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, Lysol spray.”

Kittle explained how the COVID-19 pandemic has compared to prior states of emergency.

“In most cases this happens during a hurricane or flood and in that case we’ll see a lot of reports about hotel room prices and gasoline, bottled water, generators, things like that,” Kittle said. “It’s just lasting a lot longer so we have more of them coming in.”

Kittle projected this state of emergency will have the most complaints. He added that the state is already working on getting investigations going.

Reports are investigated by local law enforcement agencies once the state of emergency is over. An exception has been made for this one.

“Because local law enforcement is tied up during a state of emergency like a hurricane. They’re doing traffic control, preventing looting,” he said. “We are already sending some to local law enforcement to go ahead and start investigating now.”

Kittle said the ambiguity of the law can make it more challenging to prosecute. It defines price gouging as renting or selling “a commodity at an unconscionable price.”

News13 also spoke with the Better Business Bureau of Coastal Carolina, which explained to us the difference between price gouging and simple supply and demand.

“Prices are allowed to go up as the market demands,” Director of Communications Renee Wikstrom explained. “Say you went to buy a gallon gas and it went up 10 cents. That’s typical you know supply and demand prices. If you went to buy a gallon of gas and it went from $2 a gallon to $4 a gallon within a few minutes that’s usually price gouging.”

She added that consumers many times will remember the price spikes.

“It’s not a good thing for businesses to do,” she said.”Most cases if a business does it and they’re not prosecuted, after the disaster is over, people are going to remember that. They’re not going to do businesses with someone who is unethical.”

If you suspect price gouging, you can file a report with the state AG’s office here. You can also email pricegouging@scag.gov or call 803-737-3953.

You can also file a scam with the BBB. Click here to do that.

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