- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A coalition of bipartisan lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday demanded Attorney General William P. Barr take “decisive steps” to stop retailers from hiking up prices for essential items during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We urge you to take a more comprehensive approach by coordinating with the state’s attorneys general to counteract price gouging and clarifying specific actions the Department intends to take to deter these abhorrent practices,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Mr. Barr.

“It is critical that the DOJ play a central role in ensuring that consumers have access to the items they need to protect themselves, their families and their communities,” the letter continued.

The letter was signed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, New York Democrat; Joe Neguse, Colorado Democrat; James Sensenbrenner, Wisconsin Republican; and David Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat.

Last week, Mr. Barr urged prosecutors across the country to vigorously prosecute retailers taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic, saying such conduct “cannot be tolerated.”

The call for action comes as state attorneys general throughout the country began cracking down on retailers who jacked up prices on face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and other coronavirus- related products.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia announced it would appoint a COVID-19 pandemic fraud coordinator

In New Jersey, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal issued 13 subpoenas and more than 80 warning letters to businesses suspected of price gouging during the pandemic.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel issued a cease-and-desist letter to home improvement retailer Menards, calling its actions “unconscionable.”
Ms. Nessel accused Menards — one of the state’s largest retailers — of jacking up prices on bleach and face masks during the pandemic. She said she’s received 18 complaints from consumers about price increases.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said his office is probing more than 71 reports of retailers trying to line their pockets. He has fielded complaints from a resident who was charged nearly $40 for a 30-pack of toilet paper and another who said they paid more than $25 for hand sanitizer that normally retails for roughly $10.

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