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Attorney General responds to more than 100 complaints of price gouging

Posted at 3:51 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 16:59:26-04

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — WMAR 2 News would like to clarify that Food Depot is not price gouging. The story may have suggested otherwise. After further investigation and talking with a Food Depot representative, it is clear the grocery store is not price gouging.

The Maryland Attorney General's Office says it received more than 100 complaints about price gouging. This is as residents complain about higher prices at stores across the state since the COVID-19 outbreak.

The state's new anti–price gouging statute went into effect March 20. It prohibits raising the price of many consumer goods and services that increase the seller's profit by more than 10%.

"I see that someone is dollar hungry," said Barbara Rich. "Somebody is ripping off the low income people."

Rich is not happy with the price of eggs and meat at her local Food Depot in East Baltimore. A dozen eggs are selling for $5.58. A package of two dozen eggs are retailing for nearly $9.

Food Depot said it is not price gouging. Signs posted read:

"The increased price of eggs is in no way a decision of Food Depot. The mass purchasing of eggs over the last two weeks has lead to a shortage of eggs and our suppliers increasing their cost to us dramatically. We have reduced any profit levels on these items to prevent the pricing from being even higher. As soon as we see reductions in the costs from egg suppliers, we in turn will also lower pricing immediately."

Customers WMAR-2 News spoke aren't buying it.

"You go somewhere else and the price is lower," said Nick Moore. "I inside the store it's much higher.

Another viewer shared a photo of a package of chicken legs selling for $26.

"It's just not right," said a customer. WMAR-2 News reached out to Attorney General Brian Frosh to see how the state is dealing with possible price gouging.

In a statement spokesperson Raquel Coombs said:

"We have received over 100 complaints since the price gouging law went into effect. Approximately 60 letters have gone out to companies and retailers and we have gotten responses from about 10-15. We are sending responses to consumers in those cases where it is clear that there is no price gouging. We have had one company stop selling the product already as a result of our efforts. The biggest item now seems to be food, but from the responses we have been getting, much of this is as a result of people being forced to buy a higher priced product because their regular lower choice item is out of stock, or because the cost of the item has gone up for the retailer, like eggs."

Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott also criticized price gouging recently and urged residents to report such instances.

“Many of our neighbors are struggling to obtain essential resources and make ends meet during this public health crisis. We must ensure that Baltimore residents are protected from unfair price gouging, and ensure our small businesses can access the resources available to them during this emergency," said Scott. "I spoke with Attorney General Frosh and he has assured me that his office is taking this extremely seriously."

Anyone who believes a store is price gouging in response to the COVID-19 emergency is encouraged to:

-Photograph the product and price

-Provide details (store name, location)

-Contact the Attorney General's Office at 410-528-8662, or email consumer@oag.state.md.us