Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today announced that, in addition to face masks, she is declaring hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes temporarily in short supply to prevent stores from overcharging New Yorkers. The declaration, which will go into effect tomorrow, makes it temporarily illegal to drastically increase prices.
“We continue to see businesses prey on consumers who are concerned about their health during a time of unique uncertainty and it will not be tolerated,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “We are actively educating businesses and consumers that this is unacceptable, and will be investigating complaints of price gouging. We urge consumers who are overcharged on these items to file a complaint with our office.”
“It is unacceptable for businesses to target New Yorkers who are trying to take necessary precautions to practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” said NYC Emergency Management Commissioner Deanne Criswell. “We will not tolerate price gouging, and I support Commissioner Salas in cracking down on any offender.”
On March 05, 2020, the Commissioner declared face masks in short supply and that declaration will be extended with the addition of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, effective March 10. Under the Rules of the City of New York (6 RCNY §5-38), the commissioner can declare certain items temporarily in short supply during extraordinary circumstances. Stores selling items that have been declared in short supply cannot excessively increase prices, require the purchase of a minimum quantity of the item, deny consumers equal opportunity to purchase the item or require consumers to purchase another item to get the item in short supply. DCWP will be inspecting stores and responding to consumer complaints. Stores found to be overcharging consumers will be issued a violation with a fine up to $500 per item. If businesses are paying more to supply these items, they can provide proof to DCWP but the increase must be comparable. For example, if they paid $2 more, they cannot charge customers $50 more. The declaration expires in 30 days but can be cancelled or extended by the commissioner.
DCWP encourages consumers who are overcharged to file a complaint at nyc.gov/dcwp or by contacting 311 and saying “overcharge.”
DCWP also reminds New Yorkers that they have the right to sick leave and should use it if they are feeling ill. Under the NYC Paid Safe and Sick Leave Law, employers with five or more employees who work more than 80 hours per calendar year in New York City must provide paid safe and sick leave to employees. Employers with fewer than five employees must provide unpaid safe and sick leave. Covered employees have the right to use safe and sick leave for the care and treatment of themselves or a family member. Employers and employees can visit nyc.gov/workers or call 311 (212-NEW-YORK outside NYC) for more information.
About Department of Consumer and Worker Protection
NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 75,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities.
For more information about DCWP and its work, please call 311 or visit DCWP at nyc.gov/dcwp or on its social media sites Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.