Hillsborough County is one of the top three Florida counties for reports of suspected price gouging related to COVID-19, according to the Florida Attorney General’s Office.
The other two counties are Broward and Miami-Dade.
Since the state’s Price Gouging Hotline was activated last week, the Consumer Protection Division has reviewed 447 consumer reports about the prices of essential items.
“You know, I wish I could say that I was surprised during a time of emergency that bad actors would take advantage of Floridians,” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody told 10News.
About 40 percent of those consumer reports have been about online posts or offers. Many do not involve actual purchases.
The top three essential items consumers are contacting the hotline about are:
1. Cleaning and disinfecting supplies
2. Hand sanitizer
3. Face masks
A Florida Attorney General’s Office spokesperson said the Rapid Response Team has contacted online and local businesses about nearly 700 consumer concerns regarding both essential items or other services and products.
The Rapid Response Team is also working with Amazon, Facebook Marketplace, eBay and other major online platforms to remove dozens of posts from third-party sellers suspected of price gouging on essential items.
According to the Florida Attorney General’s Office, an Ace Hardware store in Jacksonville bought cleaning supplies, toilet paper and other items at a discount store and then tried to resell them at double the price. The business donated the items to charity after the Rapid Response Team contacted them.
The AG’s Office said it was able to get a woman a full refund after she purchased N95 masks through Amazon for $199.
“I can tell you, without going into too much detail, we are already in the steps that would allow us to follow up further. Our immediate focus right now is making sure that conduct is stopped,” Moody told 10News.
The agency said the Rapid Response Team also helped take down a post on eBay advertising a “30 Day Certified C-virus Protection Kit” for $199.99.
To report price gouging or scams related to the COVID-19 emergency, call 1(866) 9NO-SCAM, visit MyFloridaLegal.com or download the free NO SCAM app.
You can find out more about Florida’s price gouging laws here.
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