COVID-19: Deschutes Co. DA announces ‘zero-tolerance’ for price gouging

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel on Sunday announced a “zero-tolerance policy” toward price gougers during the COVID-19 crisis.

“If you’re putting our community at risk in order to make a buck during a time of crisis, in addition to rotting in hell, you’ll face the full weight of the legal power granted to me by the people of Oregon,” Hummel said Sunday in a statement.

Oregon law authorizes district attorneys to take action to restrain a person from engaging in the unlawful trade practice of price gouging consumer goods essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Before a district attorney can do so the Governor must declare an “abnormal disruption of the market.”

Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel was in touch Sunday with the Governor’s office and was informed that she was still monitoring the market to determine if an “abnormal disruption of the market” is occurring.

But on Monday, at the request of the Attorney General, Brown declared an abnormal market disruption regarding essential items like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, to prevent price gouging during this public health crisis.

“For the past week, we have heard from Oregonians from across the state who are reporting everything from the higher price of toilet paper, to the higher price of cleaning disinfectant. Once the Governor declares an abnormal disruption of the market, my office is able to take action and follow-up with consumer complaints about reports of price gouging from large grocery stores to smaller businesses,” said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. “During this COVID-19 public health emergency, I want Oregonians to know that my office is open for business, and we want to hear from Oregonians as to what is going on in the marketplace.”

In the letter to the Governor, the Attorney General cited two consumer complaints received last week:

  • A pharmacy is allegedly selling toilet paper for $22.99, and the consumer believes the same brand and size of toilet paper “typically sells for $9.99-12.99” at the same store.
  • A grocery store in Central Oregon allegedly sold 2 bottles of rubbing alcohol for $4 each when the same bottle “normally sell[s] for 1 dollar”. The person also said the store marked up a disinfectant cleaner from $3 dollars to $9.99.

The Oregon DOJ’s new hotline for reporting price gouging is 503-378-8442. Consumers can also still visit www.OregonConsumer.gov.

“If the Governor determines an ‘abnormal disruption of the market’ exists in Deschutes County, and makes such a declaration, I will have a zero-tolerance policy toward offenders,” he said.

 

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