State Joins Coalition Fighting Pandemic Price Gouging

September 25, 2020 – Tennessee Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III has joined a bipartisan coalition of 31 states filing an amicus brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit to support states’ authority to enforce price gouging regulations to protect consumers during emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coalition will urge the appellate court to overturn the district court’s decision in Online Merchants Guild v. Cameron, a news release said.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, more consumers have turned to online sellers to purchase food, medicine, cleaning supplies and other household essentials. The Online Merchants Guild claims that price gouging laws should not be applied to retailers selling goods on Amazon.

The court entered a preliminary injunction preventing Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron from enforcing price gouging regulations against retailers selling products on Amazon, the release said.

In the legal brief, the coalition states that national and local emergencies like the pandemic create significant shortages for essential items.

“State price gouging laws are essential to ensuring that goods can be fairly allocated among residents, and to preventing bad actors from profiting off residents by charging excessively high prices for goods that are scarce,” the release said.

In Tennessee, the Division of Consumer Affairs has managed 302 formal complaints of alleged price gouging on essential items such as personal protective equipment, paper goods, and food.

“This office is responsible for enforcing price gouging laws activated during an emergency in Tennessee,” Slatery said. “The state has acted, with positive results, to protect consumers during COVID-19 and must be able to continue to do so.”

He said states have already taken action “that has been crucial to curbing price gouging during the pandemic, including working toward voluntary compliance, issuing subpoenas, sending cease and desist letters, and filing civil actions.”

The coalition will ask the appellate court to reverse the district court’s order granting injunctive relief.

By The Greenville Sun
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