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 for our clients and friends.

D.C. Attorney General Files Lawsuit against Gasoline Retailer for Alleged Price Gouging

On November 12, 2020, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine filed a lawsuit against a D.C. gas retailer and distributor for allegations of price gouging. According to Attorney General Racine, the company doubled its profits on every gallon of gasoline sold at its 54 gas stations across the D.C. area, despite the prices of wholesale gasoline dropping in March and April 2020. Attorney General Racine stated “[t]he overwhelming majority of the District’s businesses continue to follow the law. In this case, however, OAG’s investigation revealed that—despite lower gasoline prices during the pandemic—[the company] took advantage of the District’s consumers by illegally increasing the price of its products, instead of passing the cost savings along to District consumers as required by law.” The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, restitution, civil penalties, and attorney’s fees.

New York City Analysis Shows Vulnerable New Yorkers Hit Hardest from Price Gouging

After analyzing the more than 10,000 price gouging complaints received by the New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP), Commissioner Lorelei Salas announced that the neighborhoods with the most complaints are many of the same neighborhoods that were hardest hit by COVID-19. According to the NYC Consumer Affairs, “[t]hese neighborhoods, which are majority Black and Hispanic, are already financially vulnerable and, with median household incomes of approximately $30,000, can least afford to be gouged on lifesaving items like face masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfecting wipes.” Commissioner Salas further stated “[c]omplaints have slowed but as our city reopens and some supply chains across the country continue to face challenges, businesses—especially those in these neighborhoods—must continue to comply.” Since the beginning of the pandemic, the DCWP has received more than 12,000 complaints related to price gouging and issued more than 15,200 violations.

Florida Expands Price Gouging Law in Response to Tropical Storm Eta

On November 7, 2020, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced that Florida’s price gouging hotline was expanded to cover essential commodities related to Governor Ron DeSantis’ declaration of a state of emergency for Tropical Storm Eta. According to Attorney General Moody “[t]he state of emergency is in effect for the following counties: Broward, Collier, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach. Florida’s price gouging laws for this event apply only within the areas of the declared state of emergency and only for commodities and services essential to preparing for or recovering from the storm event.” Attorney General Moody further stated “ I want to remind Floridians that we are now under multiple states of emergency in Florida—including one for Eta, one statewide for COVID-19 and two in panhandle counties for Hurricanes Michael and Sally. Essential commodities for each declaration may differ, but it remains illegal for sellers to use an emergency to exploit consumers relating to essential items. We will continue to work in real-time to ensure scammers will not get in the way of Floridians protecting their properties and families. If you see potential price gouging, please report it to my office immediately.”

South Carolina Extends Price Gouging Restrictions

On November 8, 2020, South Carolina’s price gouging law was extended for another 15 days, until November 23, 2020. South Carolina’s price gouging law provides “[u]pon a declaration of a state of disaster by the President, in which the disaster area includes all or a portion of the State of South Carolina, it is unlawful and a violation of this article for a person or his agent or employee in this State to: (a) rent or sell or offer to rent or sell a commodity at an unconscionable price within the area for which the state of disaster is declared; or (b) impose unconscionable prices for the rental or lease of a dwelling unit, including a motel or hotel unit, or other temporary lodging, or self-storage facility within the area for which the state of disaster is declared.” S.C. Code Ann. § 39-5-145.

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.