Iowans are being warned to use common sense and do not give in to ridiculous prices for products that are in high demand because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lynn Hicks, communications director for the Iowa Attorney General’s office, says they’re investigating multiple reports of price gouging at Iowa stores and online retailers. “Whether it’s hand sanitizer or protective masks, they’re seeing high prices,” Hicks says. “We encourage people to send us the information, file a complaint with us and we’ll look into it.”
Iowans are warned to be on guard when they see offers for a coronavirus cure or treatment — as there are none. Iowans are also getting calls from people claiming to be with a public health organization when they’re just crooks phishing for your personal information. During an emergency like this, Hicks says it’s natural for prices on some hard-to-find items to rise, but not to the point of gouging.
“Prices may be higher because sellers could incur increased costs,” Hicks says, “but when there are situations where the prices have gone up so much and there’s no other reason than somebody’s trying to take advantage of a disaster, that’s when we have the ability to step in.”
The state attorney general’s office has appealed to one of the world’s largest online retailers over reports from Iowans about items with unreasonable prices. “We’ve already been in contact with Amazon,” Hicks says. “They’ve removed several products and offers and a lot of the stuff that’s on there are third-party sellers who are engaged in price gouging so they’ve taken those down.”
Iowans are urged to do research on any organizations or charities claiming to be raising money for victims of the coronavirus by checking with groups like the Better Business Bureau at https://www.give.org.
To reach the Iowa Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division, visit www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov or call 888-777-4590.