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Investigators found that City Fresh Market on Broadway in Astoria was charging customers $14.99 for a 19-ounce bottle of disinfectant spray.
By Forum Staff
State Attorney General Tish James recently ordered two city merchants, including one in Queens, to cease and desist charging customers excessive prices for hand sanitizers and disinfectant sprays during a period of market disruption.
Following a referral from de Blasio administration officials, AG investigators on March 9 found that City Fresh Market on Broadway in Astoria was charging customers $14.99 for a 19-ounce bottle of disinfectant spray. On March 7, authorities confirmed that Scheman & Grant Hardware, d/b/a Ace Hardware in Midtown, was charging customers $79.99 for 1200 milliliters of hand sanitizer.
James noted that the AG’s Office is monitoring businesses across the state for potential scams and price gouging schemes designed to exploit public concern related to the spread of coronavirus.
While City officials issued fines earlier this month to Scheman & Grant Hardware for price gouging on face masks, the AG is tasked with enforcing New York’s price gouging statute which prohibits the sale of goods and services necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers at unconscionably excessive prices during any abnormal disruption of the market.
“On my watch, we will not tolerate schemes or frauds designed to turn large profits by exploiting people’s health concerns,” James said. “While there remains no cause for widespread panic, some people are looking to prey on others’ anxiety and line their own pockets. My office will remain vigilant in ensuring that we find and stop such unlawful activity and continue to ask the public to report suspected fraud, scams, or price gouging to my office.”
James also warned residents that scammers commonly exploit real public health concerns and use heightened public fear to prey on consumers and profit from frauds related to those health fears. People should beware of fundraising solicitations and offers of goods and services related to coronavirus, the AG said. There is currently no Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccine to prevent the virus, but scammers may still offer fake vaccines and other bogus medical products claiming to offer “cures.” They may also offer “get rich quick” investment schemes for unproven virus treatments, James added.
Crooks may set up sham charity websites and crowd-funding sites that request donations for virus-relief efforts for victims, the attorney general cautioned. Scammers may use emails, texts, and social media posts that appear to give virus updates but have malicious links that can steal sensitive personal identity information. James said New Yorkers making charitable donations should never feel rushed or pressured to donate, and never make donations in cash, by gift card, or by money wire. If you receive a charitable solicitation, do some research to determine whether the charity is legitimate, James said.
“We are in the middle of a crisis, and we need to help our fellow New Yorkers. Now is not the time to try and profit,” Mayor Bill de Blasio added. “Not only is price gouging immoral, it is also illegal.”
Report incidents of price gouging here: ag.ny.gov/price-gouging-complaint-form.