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The Michigan Department of Attorney General dispatched a cease and desist letter after it received 18 consumer complaints that indicated Menards was selling products like bleach and face masks at noticeably high prices.
The complaints started rolling in early last week. According to a press release, AG investigators found that the store might be capitalizing on consumer fears surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. In their investigation, they found the price of face masks was inordinately high, and the price of bleach and other products had doubled.
“Big box stores are not immune to the Michigan Consumer Protection Act or the Governor’s Executive Order,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in the press release. “Large corporations must also play by the rules, and my office will work diligently to ensure this state’s consumers are treated fairly and not abused by businesses seeking to unlawfully jack prices up to line their pockets with profits at the expense of the public during this time of great need.”
After receiving the cease and desist letter, Menards has 10 days to respond. The store could assure the AG’s office of voluntary compliance — or, if the store does not respond, the AG’s office will continue the investigation and could pursue legal action.
The AG’s Consumer Protection intake team is keeping phone lines open until 11 p.m. today to accommodate the higher volume of complaints related to coronavirus. Normal phone hours are usually 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. on weekdays. As of this Tuesday morning, the office had received over 350 complaints.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is also doing her part to safeguard against price-gouging related to the coronavirus outbreak. She issued an executive order that bans selling products in gross excess of what the seller purchased the product for. The order also states that prices should not be greater than 20% higher than what their price was on March 9, unless the seller can explain a legitimate reason for doing so.
There is also a bipartisan bill percolating in the Michigan Senate that would protect against price-gouging during market disruptions or emergencies. It would also support investigators in their efforts to combat price-gouging.
If you want to report a violation of the Consumer Protection Act, call 877-765-8388 or click here
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