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.

Report by Consumer Watchdog Exposes Pandemic Price Gouging

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer watchdog organization, recently published a report reviewing 750 products showing the fluctuations of a variety of essential products during the pandemic. The report, comparing price listings on Amazon from Dec. 1, 2019 to Dec. 1, 2020, found that of the 750 products, “409 saw price increases of more than 20% and 136 at least doubled in price.” Notably, “patio heaters showed the 10 largest price increases by percentage,” and “of the 409 listings with price increases of more than 20%, approximately 1 in 7 were sold directly by Amazon.” Among the products that the report found the greatest increases in were cloth masks, surgical gloves, eye protection, toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissues, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizers, hand soaps, cough syrups, oral thermometers, pulse oximeters, patio heaters, computer monitors, and WiFi mesh systems.

Virginia Attorney General Settles Price Gouging Action

On January 12, 2021, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring announced that his office secured a settlement with a Virginia-based pharmacy for “alleged violations of the Virginia Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act.” Attorney General Herring alleges that between March 20 and March 25, 2020, the pharmacy charged $22 per 16-oz bottle of rubbing alcohol which they purchased for $12.75. This settlement is part of the more than 500 complaints the Virginia Attorney General’s Office has received during the COVID-19 emergency. In connection with the settlement, Attorney General Herring stated that “[m]y team has been closely monitoring and investigating any complaints of alleged price gouging in the Commonwealth” and “I hope this settlement sends a message to any other businesses that price gouging will not be tolerated in Virginia.”

Price Gouging Update in Illinois

On January 8, 2021, the Illinois Attorney General’s office reported 1,820 price gouging complaints have been made since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Attorney General’s office stated that “when [they] receive a price gouging complaint, we attempt to mediate that complaint and focus on trying to resolve the issue for the consumer through this mediation process.” While Illinois’ price gouging statute only applies to petroleum products, “increases in the selling price of goods or services, including medical supplies, protective equipment, medications and other commodities intended to assist in the prevention of or treatment and recovery of COVID-19” are currently prohibited via executive order during the COVID-19 state of emergency.

More Counties Cap Third-Party Food Delivery Fees

On January 12, 2021, Schenectady County became the latest county to place a limit on third-party delivery fees at restaurants. According to county legislator Sara Mae Pratt, “[w]hile third-party delivery services . . . offer some benefits to locally owned restaurants, such as a boost in visibility and increased volume, the fees assessed on restaurants always left little-to-no room for the small business to profit.” Under the new law, third-party delivery companies may not charge a restaurant greater than 15% of an online order, while orders for pickup are limited to a 5% markup.

Similarly, one day later on January 13, 2021, the City Council in St. Paul, Minnesota approved an emergency order capping the fees charged by third-party food delivery services. Under the order, which Council President Amy Brendmoen described as enacted to “avoid further harm to such valuable and important establishments in the city,” third-party food delivery service fees are limited to 15 percent of the order. For more information on third-party delivery fees, read our blog post.

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 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.