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How to Avoid Price-Gouging During the COVID-19 Crisis

Ohio attorneys on what consumers need to know during the coronavirus pandemic

At a time when most people are focused on avoiding the COVID-19 virus, consumer-law attorneys say there are other, related concerns that also call for caution.

One of them is price-gouging of needed supplies and services, such as astronomical prices for toilet paper, hand sanitizer and bottled water. While Ohio doesn’t have a specific law covering price increases during a crisis, such misbehavior falls under a general consumer-practices statute.

“Ohio law has a provision that prohibits sellers from charging a price substantially in excess of like items for sale,” explains Troy Doucet with Doucet Gerling Co. in Dublin, Ohio. Nevertheless, Doucet notes, Ohio’s attorney general is pushing for a stronger anti-gouging law.

Consumer Protection Against Excessive Prices

What should consumers do if they feel they are being overcharged? “While there are mechanisms in the law for a consumer to hold a business directly accountable,” says Doucet, “the easiest way to resolve this kind of issue would be to contact the state’s attorney general.” That agency, he says, “will be on the lookout for this kind of thing and I expect would act quickly.” Attorney General Dave Yost’s office can be reached at 800-282-0515.

In addition, with supplies of basic items running short due to demand and supply chain concerns, consumers should make sure that businesses honor requests for refunds. “In Ohio, most companies are required to tell consumers if they won’t be delivering the promised services within eight weeks of the deposit payment, and offer consumers refunds,” says Dan Myers, with Myers Law in Cleveland, “if they don’t deliver the services they promised within eight weeks of the deposit being paid.”

It’s also not necessarily the best time to buy a gift card, though that might seem an ideal option to shopping. However, warns Myers, “There are some companies in very bad financial shape, and buying a gift card from one of them is a big gamble.”

Other Resources for Price Changes and Consumer Goods

For information on more legal questions regarding COVID-19, visit FindLaw’s legal center, or find more articles on superlawyers.com/articles (search for COVID-19). For more information on this area of law, see our overviews of consumer law and antitrust litigation.

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