New York Attorney General Letitia James announced Friday that the state is cracking down on reports of retailers' ''price gouging'' of consumers amid a baby formula shortage.
''It's unconscionable that some retailers are taking advantage of the national baby formula shortage while parents are struggling to find food for their children,'' James, a Democrat, said in a press release Friday announcing that the state is issuing ''warnings'' to more than 30 online and brick-and-mortar outlets in New York regarding their prices for formula.
''Amid this crisis, families already have enough to worry about and should not have to worry about being price gouged. We are warning all retailers that New York will not tolerate price gouging of baby formula, and I encourage anyone who sees this to continue reporting it to my office.''
According to the release, James' office has received several complaints of price gouging on baby formula across the state, primarily in New York City. A Bronx store was allegedly selling a 32-ounce bottle of ready-to-feed Enfamil NeuroPro, which used to sell for $11.99. for $17.99. And one report said that an Erie County store was selling a 19.8-ounce can of Enfamil Nutramigen, which is normally priced at $44.99, for $59.99.
According to state law, using a supply chain ''disruption'' to raise prices to an ''unconscionable'' level is prohibited, especially on items and services that are considered ''vital and necessary for the health, safety, and welfare of consumers or
the general public.''
The law states that a court would determine if the prices are considered ''grossly excessive.''
This is defined as ''the amount charged represents a gross disparity between the price of the goods or services which were the subject of the transaction and their value measured by the price at which such goods or services were sold or offered for sale by the defendant in the usual course of business immediately prior to the onset of the abnormal disruption of the market,'' or the amount charged when the service or items ''were readily available.''
The penalty for violating the state law includes a civil fine of up to $25,000 per violation, or three times the gross receipts for the goods and services in question, according to the statute.
For the week ending May 8, the out-of-stock level for baby formula was 43%, according to the Datasembly organization, which monitors product pricing, promotions and assortment data for retailers in real time.
James is seeking reelection this year.
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