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AG Nessel Supports Bipartisan Price-gouging Legislation
March 12, 2020
LANSING – Attorney General Dana Nessel is stating her support for a package of bipartisan bills introduced in the Michigan Senate today that will add price-gouging protections during an emergency declaration or a market disruption.
The bills were introduced by Sen. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, and Sen. Ruth Johnson, R-Holly. The Attorney General’s office helped draft the legislation, which aims to enhance existing investigative tools, add criminal penalties and expand the ability to apply price-gouging enforcement efforts to business-to-business relations.
The three-bill package focuses on consumer goods, including emergency supplies, lodging and energy products like gasoline or propane. The bills consider an action to be price-gouging when a retailer sells items or services at a price increase of more than 10 percent above the price it was sold for immediately before the emergency (lodging, supplies) or market disruption (energy products). Under the proposed legislation, the seller will be given the opportunity to demonstrate that the increase was justified.
The bills include language outlining legal actions that the Attorney General’s office or a local prosecuting attorney can take should either believe an individual is violating the act, as well as punishments if a person is found to be in violation. The bills also retain the consumer protections set forth in the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.
“As Attorney General, part of my responsibility is ensuring Michiganders and visitors to the Great Lakes State are being treated fairly by the businesses in our communities,” Nessel said. “This legislation helps further protections for consumers and gives my office and local prosecutors additional tools to investigate violations and enforce the law. I appreciate the work of Sen. Moss and Sen. Johnson to strengthen our efforts to protect consumers and for ensuring Michiganders aren’t taken advantage of by businesses acting in bad faith. This legislation provides increased safeguards for consumers and I fully encourage the Legislature to support these commonsense protections.”
Due to the recent appearance of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the Attorney General’s office has become aware of several reports of potential price-gouging by Michigan retailers.
Retailers may be in violation of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act if they are:
- Charging the consumer a price that is grossly in excess of the price at which similar property or services are sold; and
- Causing coercion and duress as the result of the time and nature of a sales presentation.
The Attorney General’s office is actively tracking consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and is evaluating the reports to determine what actions to take.
Michigan residents are urged to report any violation of the Consumer Protection Act online or by calling 877-765-8388.
Information around the COVID-19 outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available online at a state website focused on the issue, and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.