Price gouging complaints to BBB skyrocket during pandemic

Price gouging complaints to BBB skyrocket during pandemic
FILE PHOTO: Brothers who were accused of price gouging when they bought thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer for resale have settled with Tennessee state officials. (Ted Shaffrey/AP)

WASHINGTON — Price gouging complaints have skyrocketed during the pandemic and consumer advocates are warning shoppers that some of the price increases are because of the changing economy.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) said price gouging complaints went up 279 percent from January and February to March and April.

"A lot of that was for products that have been scarce,” said Katherine Hutt, national spokesperson for the BBB. “Hand sanitizer, toilet paper. Disinfecting wipes and things like that."

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The BBB said the price increases aren’t always legally considered to be price gouging.

Businesses are now facing new costs in many cases with some making physical adjustments to comply with social distancing orders and providing protective equipment for employees.

"This world is dealing with something that we've never really quite dealt with before,” Hutt said. “Costs go up and so sometimes price increases are just around the normal increases in services and products."

The BBB advises customers to do comparison shopping.

"The best way to determine if something is a good deal or not a good deal is to know how much it normally costs,” Hutt said.

If you do think you encountered price gouging, you can report it to the BBB and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

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