W.Va. AG ready to enforce price gouging law amid Coronavirus State of Preparedness

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warned West Virginia businesses to adhere to the state’s price gouging law during the coronavirus-related state of preparedness declared Wednesday.

Laws prohibiting such activity took effect statewide Wednesday with the governor’s declaration of a state of preparedness.

The state’s price gouging law, in concert with Wednesday’s declaration, makes it unlawful for any person, business or contractor to inflate the price of food items, essential consumer items and emergency supplies by more than 10 percent of what the items sold for 10 days prior to the declaration.

“Stopping the spread of coronavirus is a top priority for all of us,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “I encourage all West Virginians to take routine health precautions to prevent the spread of illness and watch for anyone who may take advantage of the situation. This is a time to remain calm, prepare and help one another as needed.”

The price gouging law takes effect during any state of emergency or state of preparedness as issued by West Virginia’s governor. Such laws remain in effect until the declaration is lifted or 30 days, whichever is longer, subject to limited exceptions.

The Attorney General urges any consumer who believes he or she may have been charged prices that increased dramatically after the state of preparedness declaration to file a complaint with his office. Those with a receipt should attach a copy to their complaint.

Consumers also should be wary of scammers who may look to use coronavirus as a means of targeting people through email, phone calls and other methods.

Be wary of any unsolicited emails, calls or other forms of communication from those who may claim to represent a familiar entity as part of a ploy to obtain personally identifiable, financial and otherwise sensitive information.

Never share such data or agree to send cash, wire money or provide numbers associated with a credit/debit card, gift card or bank account without verifying the legitimacy of the recipient.

Anyone with a question about price gouging laws or coronavirus-related scams should call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

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