Price gouging enforcement and litigation is front and center for company counsel and business managers nationwide. Our weekly round up highlights some of the most relevant news and information to our clients and friends.

House Holds Hearing on Increased Risks Faced by Consumers During COVID-19

On July 9, 2020, the Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce of the Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing titled “Consumers Beware: Increased Risks During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” The hearing addressed the increased risks that consumers are facing due to COVID-19 related scams, including price gouging. According to Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr., “[w]ith widespread shortages and supply chain delays on key medical equipment and household essentials, opportunistic sellers are also price gouging consumers.” Chairman Pallone joined Chair Schakowsky in introducing the COVID-19 Price Gouging Prevention Act (the “Act”), which would prohibit the sale of consumer goods and services at unconscionably excessive prices during a public health emergency. The legislation was included in the Heroes Act, which passed the House in May, but has not yet been acted on by the Senate. According to Kevin Anderson, North Carolina Senior Deputy Attorney General, the legislation would make it easier for state attorneys general to bring justice as it not only gives states the ability to enforce the federal law, but does not preempt states from acting in accordance with their own laws. Anderson also added that having the ability to enforce the federal statute helps states fill in gaps that state laws do not cover.

Wisconsin Ends Abnormal Economic Disruption

On July 3, 2020, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers announced the end of Wisconsin’s abnormal economic disruption. According to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP), “[t]he end of the abnormal economic disruption declaration means that future price changes will not be subject to price increase prohibitions described in state law. Complaints about prices that existed before the end of the emergency declaration will continue to be investigated, even if those complaints are filed after the declaration has ended.” Since March 12, 2020, the DATCP received a total of 725 price gouging complaints, with 39% of the complaints relating to grocery items, 35% relating to household supplies, 11% relating to personal protective equipment, and the other 18% related to other items. Approximately 35% of the complaints the Department’s Bureau of Business Trade Practices has received have been closed.

Pennsylvania Pharmacy Fined for Price Gouging

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced on July 7, 2020, that a Chester County pharmacy has agreed to pay a fine of $5,300 for price gouging individual N95 masks. According to Attorney General Shapiro, the pharmacy sold 100 masks for $25 each. The pharmacy also agreed to reimburse customers who purchased the masks, for a total of approximately $2,000. “We won’t tolerate illegal price gouging during this emergency, and we’re taking action every day to stop it — here in Chester County and across Pennsylvania,” Attorney General Shapiro said. Attorney General Shapiro added that Pennsylvanians “have a right … to purchase life-saving goods at reasonable prices whether in store or online.”

Los Angeles Strengthens Price Gouging Penalties

On July 7, 2020, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance to strengthen protections against COVID-19 price gouging. Recommended by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, the ordinance authorizes civil actions against price gougers, with penalties up to $10,000 per violation. According to Ridley-Thomas, “[i]t is unconscionable to exploit people’s fears during a pandemic and force them to pay exponentially more than is reasonable for goods and services, essential or otherwise.” Since March 4, 2020, the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs has received nearly 2,000 price gouging complaints.

Staten Island Business Charged With Violating Defense Protection Act

On July 8, 2020, a Staten Island business owner was arrested and charged with violating the Defendant Production Act by stockpiling and selling personal protective equipment and other medical goods at prices in excess of the prevailing market price. “The defendant allegedly took advantage of the pandemic and the public’s urgent need for life-saving PPE to enrich himself illegally,” said Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York in a statement. Prosecutors claim that the business sold items at prices ranging from 150% to 500% greater than their purchase price. According to Philip Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge, USPIS, “the defendant chose personal greed over the life and safety of first responders and the heroes in the medical community. Price gouging, hoarding, and lying to consumers will always be uncovered by law enforcement; and those participating in such schemes will be brought to justice.” For more information on the Defense Production Act, read our Federal Price Gouging Enforcement Update.

Photo of Christopher E. Ondeck Christopher E. Ondeck

Chris Ondeck is co-chair of the Firm’s nationwide Antitrust Group. He represents clients in civil and criminal antitrust litigation, defending mergers and acquisitions before the U.S. antitrust agencies, defending companies involved in government investigations, and providing antitrust counseling.

Chris has handled antitrust matters…

Chris Ondeck is co-chair of the Firm’s nationwide Antitrust Group. He represents clients in civil and criminal antitrust litigation, defending mergers and acquisitions before the U.S. antitrust agencies, defending companies involved in government investigations, and providing antitrust counseling.

Chris has handled antitrust matters for clients in a number of industries, including advertising, aerospace, alcoholic beverages, appliances, building materials, consumer products, defense, franchise, medical devices, metals, mining, natural resources, oil and gas, packaging, pharmaceuticals, software and telecommunications. He also has developed substantial experience advising clients regarding the application of the antitrust laws to the pharmaceutical industry, the agriculture industry, trade associations and the energy industry.

Photo of John R. Ingrassia John R. Ingrassia

When competition or antitrust questions arise, John Ingrassia is sought out for his knowledge, reputation and credentials.

John is a recognized authority on Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust merger review, and for more than 20 years has counselled businesses facing the most challenging antitrust issues and…

When competition or antitrust questions arise, John Ingrassia is sought out for his knowledge, reputation and credentials.

John is a recognized authority on Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust merger review, and for more than 20 years has counselled businesses facing the most challenging antitrust issues and helped them stay out of the crosshairs — whether its distribution, pricing, channel management, mergers, acquisitions or joint ventures.

John is a senior counsel at the Firm, advising on the full range of antitrust matters in diverse industries, including chemicals, pharmaceutical, medical devices, telecommunications, financial services and health care, among others.  His practice focuses on the analysis and resolution of antitrust issues related to mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures, and the analysis and assessment of pre-merger notification requirements. John has extensive experience with the legal, practical, and technical requirements of merger clearance and is regularly invited to participate in Federal Trade Commission and bar association meetings regarding Hart-Scott-Rodino practice issues.

Photo of Kelly Landers Hawthorne Kelly Landers Hawthorne

Kelly Landers Hawthorne is an associate in the Litigation Department.

While at Columbia, she served as an articles editor of the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts and was involved with the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic.  She also worked as…

Kelly Landers Hawthorne is an associate in the Litigation Department.

While at Columbia, she served as an articles editor of the Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts and was involved with the Lawyering in the Digital Age Clinic.  She also worked as a judicial intern for the Honorable Sandra Townes of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.

Kelly is a Teach For America alumnus and taught middle school special education and math in Washington, D.C. prior to law school.

Photo of Nathaniel Miller Nathaniel Miller

Nat Miller is an associate in the Litigation Department.

Nat earned a J.D. degree from NYU School of Law, where he was a Managing Editor of the Journal of Law & Business, and a B.A. from Harvard University. While at NYU Law, he…

Nat Miller is an associate in the Litigation Department.

Nat earned a J.D. degree from NYU School of Law, where he was a Managing Editor of the Journal of Law & Business, and a B.A. from Harvard University. While at NYU Law, he worked as a research assistant for Professor Arthur R. Miller on his treatise, Federal Practice and Procedure. After law school, Nat served as a law clerk to the Honorable Claria Horn Boom of the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky.

Photo of Nicollette R. Moser Nicollette R. Moser

Nicollette Moser is an associate in the Litigation Department and a member of the Antitrust Group and the Price Gouging team.

Nicollette represents clients on matters related to mergers and acquisitions, allegations related to unlawful conspiracy and anticompetitive agreements, price fixing claims and…

Nicollette Moser is an associate in the Litigation Department and a member of the Antitrust Group and the Price Gouging team.

Nicollette represents clients on matters related to mergers and acquisitions, allegations related to unlawful conspiracy and anticompetitive agreements, price fixing claims and price gouging class actions. She also counsels clients on state Attorneys General and Department of Justice investigations regarding price gouging allegations.

Nicollette is a regular contributor to Proskauer’s commercial litigation blog, Minding Your Business.

Nicollette earned her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, where she was as an editor of the Georgetown Journal of Law & Public Policy. While at Georgetown, she served as an intern to the Hon. Craig Iscoe of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. In addition, Nicollette was a law clerk with the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.

Photo of Jennifer Tarr Jennifer Tarr

Jennifer E. Tarr is a senior associate in the Litigation Department, and a member of Proskauer’s Sports Law and Antitrust Groups. She regularly litigates on behalf of sports leagues and counsels clients active in the sports industry on a variety of matters, including…

Jennifer E. Tarr is a senior associate in the Litigation Department, and a member of Proskauer’s Sports Law and Antitrust Groups. She regularly litigates on behalf of sports leagues and counsels clients active in the sports industry on a variety of matters, including issues pertaining to antitrust, team relocation, league governance, contract disputes, sponsorship and fan-league relationships.

In addition to sports antitrust work, Jennifer also has experience counseling and defending clients on issues related to mergers and acquisitions, claims related to unlawful conspiracy and anticompetitive agreements, monopolization claims, and price fixing claims. Jennifer is also a member of the firm’s price gouging team.

In 2019, she was a panelist on the Environmental Law Institute’s Managing Private Sector Environmental Initiatives panel, where she spoke about the Antitrust Implications of Corporate Environmental Collaborations.

Jennifer maintains an active pro bono practice and is a member of the Firm’s Pro Bono Committee. She received Proskauer’s Golden Gavel Award for excellence in pro bono work in 2018 and 2019.

Prior to joining Proskauer, Jennifer clerked for the Honorable Lorna G. Schofield on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. She also was a Staff Attorney at the Environmental Law & Policy Center, where she represented clients as lead counsel in litigation before multiple federal district and appellate courts and in federal mediation.

While in law school, Jennifer was a member of the Harvard Legal Aid Bureau, one of three honors societies at the law school and the nation’s oldest student-run legal services center. In that capacity, she argued and won a case of first impression before the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. She also argued over 20 motions in state trial court and successfully represented clients in federal mediation and before federal administrative tribunals.