Price Gouging Reporting Campaign Launched

Attorney General Bob Ferguson today launched an awareness campaign encouraging Washingtonians to report price gouging in three easy steps: “See It, Snap It, Send It.”

Ferguson is encouraging anyone who sees price gouging to snap a photo or take a screenshot, and then include the image with the complaint they file at the Attorney General’s website here. For more information on filing complaints, visit www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.

The Attorney General’s Office has received more than 400 complaints related to price gouging since the beginning of March.

“I will use every tool at our disposal to prevent price gouging during this unprecedented pandemic,” Ferguson said. “One of our most valuable tools is the personal experience of Washingtonians. When you see a business charging exorbitant prices on products that are essential to our health and well-being, snap a photo and file a complaint with my office.”

Pictures and screenshots are useful tools for investigators tasked with looking into price-gouging complaints. Any additional information, like the brand and size of the product being sold, and, if it is known, what that store charged for the product before the current pandemic outbreak, is also helpful.

Ferguson encourages Washingtonians to spread the word on social media by sharing the campaign graphic.

In late March, Ferguson sent out an initial round of five cease-and-desist letters to Washington-based independent online sellers who significantly raised prices on coronavirus-related items. In one case, a seller raised the price on hand sanitizer by more than 600 percent. The letters warn the sellers to cease and desist charging unreasonably excessive prices, or face a lawsuit under the state Consumer Protection Act.

To date, Ferguson has sent a total of six cease-and-desist letters to businesses engaged in price gouging, and expects to send more. Investigators at the Attorney General’s Office have made more than 150 on-site visits to businesses related to price-gouging complaints. Ferguson hopes Washington consumers will help amplify these efforts by sending photographic evidence of price gouging they see.

Washington does not have a specific statute addressing price gouging. Price gouging during an emergency violates the Consumer Protection Act’s prohibition on unfair business practices. Ferguson is committed to proposing legislation specific to price gouging in the next legislative session.

The Attorney General’s Office will continue to investigate reports of price gouging during the COVID-19 pandemic. “See It, Snap It, Send It.” Snap a photo or take a screen shot of the price-gouging, then include the image when you file a complaint at Attorney General’s website here. For more information about filing complaints, visit www.atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.