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.

Amazon Continues to Combat Online Price Gouging

As a second wave of potential panic buying approaches, FOX Business has reported that Amazon is continuing to combat price gouging by third-party sellers. Since the pandemic began, Amazon has removed more than one million products from its platform. With winter approaching, a new category of cold-weather products, including fire pits and propane heaters, may be subject to state price gouging laws. “We are disappointed that bad actors are attempting to take advantage of this global health crisis and, in addition to removing these offers, have suspended more than 10,000 selling accounts,” an Amazon spokesperson told FOX Business. “We have referred the most egregious offenders to federal and state law enforcement across the country to hold them accountable. We continue to actively monitor our store and remove offers that violate our policies.”

The “COVID” Fee Appearing on Some Medical Bills

Many Americans are receiving medical bills with a “COVID” fee. According to a New York Times investigation, an elderly women living in an assisted living facility was told she had to pay a one-time fee of $900 for cleaning supplies, masks, and meal delivery. Another women saw a $60 personal protective equipment charge added to an ambulance ride of about one mile, while a New York City women was charged a $45 fee on top of her dental cleaning. According to Michigan Assistant Attorney General Darin Fowler, “[t]he cynical view is that some see this as an opportunity: Everyone understands something unusual is going on, and most customers are ready to embrace the idea they will need to bear some expense. Unfortunately, in every setting there are a percentage of folks who will take advantage of that situation.” COVID surcharges have been appearing across the country as the pandemic continues, but it remains unclear how these fees may be treated under state price gouging and consumer protection laws. Read our blog post for more information on COVID-related surcharges.

Michigan Attorney General Settles Price Gouging Allegations against Ann Arbor Business

On October 30, 2020, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced that her office reached a settlement with an Ann Arbor business accused of price gouging in late March. According to the Attorney General’s investigation, the business charged consumers excessively high prices for hand sanitizer in violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). The MCPA prohibits “[c]harging the consumer a price that is grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold.” “The uptick in excessive pricing and other deceptive business practices have become an unfortunate side effect of the ongoing pandemic,” Attorney General Nessel said. “In response to this, my office has remained steadfast in our commitment to protecting Michiganders’ pocketbooks, and I will continue to aggressively enforce the state’s consumer protection laws to ensure they are not being taken advantage of.”

Oklahoma Attorney General Warns of Contractor Fraud

Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter recently warned Oklahomans to be aware of contractor fraud due to an ice storm that swept across the state. Attorney General Hunter reminded residents that Oklahoma’s Emergency Price Stabilization Act is in effect under the ongoing COVID-19 disaster emergency declaration, stating “natural disasters bring out criminals.” He further stated, “I encourage Oklahomans to remain patient and be cautious when choosing a contractor. If someone does become the victim to contractor fraud, contact my office. We will do what we can to get their money back and prosecute the individuals committing the crimes.”

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.