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Attorney General Launches Price Gouging Awareness Campaign

Patch logo Patch 4/8/2020 Lucas Combos
The attorney general's office is calling on shoppers to proactively report suspected price gouging to his office. © Shutterstock/PeoGeo The attorney general's office is calling on shoppers to proactively report suspected price gouging to his office.

OLYMPIA, WA — Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson launched a new awareness campaign this week, encouraging shoppers to report suspected price gouging during the coronavirus outbreak using a three-step process.

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The "See It, Snap It, Send It" initiative asks shoppers to submit photos or screenshots of suspected violations and include them in complaint reports filed here. Late last month, Ferguson's office sent notices to five independent Amazon sellers warning them they could face a lawsuit if they failed to lower excessive prices on essential items. In one instance, Ferguson said, a seller had raised the price on hand sanitizer by more than 600 percent.

The attorney general's office said it received more than 400 complaints related to price gouging since the beginning of March.

"I will use every tool at our disposal to prevent price gouging during this unprecedented pandemic," Ferguson said. One of our most valuable tools is the personal experience of Washingtonians. When you see a business charging exorbitant prices on products that are essential to our health and well-being, snap a photo and file a complaint with my office.

Investigators ask shoppers to send photos along with other useful information, including the brand and size of the product, and, if possible, what the item's price was before the outbreak.

While Washington does not have a specific law related to price gouging, the attorney general's office said doing so under an emergency is a violation of the Consumer Protection Act. Sellers can face fines up to $2000 per violation.

Learn more about filing a complaint on the attorney general's website.

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