Arkansas Attorney General Rutledge warns of potential price gouging during COVID-19 state of emergency

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A customer shops in the refrigerated section of a Chicago supermarket Monday, May 12, 2008. Shoppers say they’re being gouged on food prices, but retailers say suspicions that they are taking advantage of consumers are unjustified and that, if anything, they have been reluctant to raise prices. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTVE/KARD)— On Friday, July 30, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge reminds consumers to be aware of potential price gouging on goods, products and services following Governor Asa Hutchinson’s public health emergency declaration on yesterday.

Recently, the state of Arkansas has seen a spike in cases; with the Arkansas Department of Health reporting a recent COVID-19-related teenage death.

“Just as we saw in 2020, some people will exploit a crisis by charging astronomical amounts for items like toilet paper and hand sanitizer, but this illegal activity will not be tolerated on my watch,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “Unfortunately, during emergency declarations, we must be diligent and report businesses charging prices for items that appear beyond legal limits.”

Attorney General Rutledge has released the following tips in order to avoid price gouging:

  • Know the average price for goods like hand sanitizer, soap and non-perishable food items before purchasing. If it seems too high, ask questions.
  • Avoid high-pressure sales tactics to purchase items that claim to keep you healthy.
  • When possible, deal with established, reputable businesses in the community.
  • Stay updated on the latest risks, warnings and prevention tactics at CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

According to a press release, the price gouging law is initiated whenever a state of emergency is declared by federal, state or local governments. Hutchinson’s executive order issued on July 29, 2021 will expire 60 days from that date. The ban on price gouging stays in place for at least 30 days following the declaration on goods and services connected to the emergency.

The release also states that Arkansas’s price gouging law prohibits businesses from excessive and unjustified hikes in prices charged for essential goods and services during an emergency; but there is a loophole.

Businesses may lawfully charge a higher price if they can prove that the higher price is forwardly attributable to more costs incurred by the retailer, its supplier or as the outcome of additional costs for labor or material.

Note from Attorney General Rutledge’s Office:

To report price gouging visit ArkansasAG.gov/resources/contact-us/report-price-gouging/. For more information about other consumer-related issues, please visit ArkansasAG.gov, email Consumer@ArkansasAG.gov, or call the Arkansas Attorney General’s Office at (800) 482-8982.

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