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.

Minnesota Attorney General Talks Price Gouging – Pushes for New Legislation

In a recent Law360 article, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison discussed Minnesota’s fight against pandemic profiteering. To date, Minnesota has received more than 2,200 complaints related to price gouging since the start of the pandemic. Attorney General Ellison stated that a “dedicated team of attorneys and investigators have made countless calls to businesses and consumers, conducted secret shopper visits, and sent numerous enforcement and resolution letters to sellers. They’ve also established direct channels of communication with online sales platforms . . . in order to quickly share information and stop price-gouging by third-party sellers” While Minnesota does not currently have a price gouging statute, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz issued an executive order banning price-gouging of essential items like face masks, gloves, toilet paper, and food staples during the pandemic. According to Attorney General Ellison, “so many Minnesotans have experienced the harm that price-gouging can do during this pandemic, it’s time for the Legislature to pass a law to prohibit it.”

North Carolina Attorney General Settles Price Gouging Allegations

On October 29, 2020, North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein announced that his office has reached a settlement with a New Jersey-based company accused of price gouging PPE. According to the lawsuit, the company made several pitches for 7 million masks each, at a markup of more than 100%. Each transaction would have led to a profit of $30,100,000. “Sellers cannot take advantage of a crisis to make a profit, especially at the expense of front line health care workers and first responders who were risking their lives to care for their fellow North Carolinians with the coronavirus,” said Attorney General Stein. “I’m pleased with this judgment, and I hope it will serve as a reminder to everyone that my office will not hesitate to take swift action against price gouging.”

Chicago-Shoppers See Higher Prices at the Grocery Store

According to recent reports, Chicago residents are seeing higher prices at the grocery store. Dairy product prices are 8.3% higher in September compared to this time last year, while meat prices are 5.3% higher. Normal annual food inflation is typically only 2% to 3%. During the early days of the pandemic, food prices jumped 3.2% from March to April, the largest jump the Chicago area has seen since the 1970s. Chicago’s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection has received almost 750 complaints year to date, compared to only two complaints during all of 2019. Department spokesman Isaac Reichman commented that “in the vast majority of cases the price hikes were reasonable due to increased demand or decreased supply chain.” The Department has only issued four businesses citations.

Alabama Price Gouging Law in Effect Due to Tropical Storm Zeta

On October 27, 2020, Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall announced that Alabama’s price gouging law is in effect following Governor Kay Ivey’s declaration of a state of emergency in advance of Tropical Storm Zeta. Attorney General Marshall stated that “the public should be on the lookout for unconscionable pricing of emergency-related items as well as repair and clean-up services as Tropical Storm Zeta crosses the state of Alabama.” On October 6 Attorney General Marshall also reminded that Alabama’s price gouging law is “still in effect for the ongoing States of Emergency from COVID-19 and Hurricane Sally.”

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

John is a partner at the Firm, advising on the full range of foreign investment and antitrust matters across industries, including chemicals, pharmaceutical, medical devices, telecommunications, financial services consumer goods and health care. He is the first call clients make in matters relating…

John is a partner at the Firm, advising on the full range of foreign investment and antitrust matters across industries, including chemicals, pharmaceutical, medical devices, telecommunications, financial services consumer goods and health care. He is the first call clients make in matters relating to competition and antitrust, CFIUS or foreign investment issues.

For more than 25 years, John 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, joint ventures, or price gouging compliance.

John’s practice focuses on the analysis and resolution of CFIUS and antitrust issues related to mergers, acquisitions, and joint ventures, and the analysis and assessment of pre-merger CFIUS and HSR notification requirements. He advises clients on issues related to CFIUS national security reviews, and on CFIUS submissions when non-U.S. buyers seek to acquire U.S. businesses that have national security sensitivities.  He also regularly advises clients on international antitrust issues arising in proposed acquisitions and joint ventures, including reportability under the EC Merger Regulation and numerous other foreign merger control regimes.

His knowledge, reputation and extensive experience with the legal, practical, and technical requirements of merger clearance make him a recognized authority on Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust merger review. John is regularly invited to participate in Federal Trade Commission and bar association meetings and takes on the issues of the day.

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.