A dozen COVID price gougers fined by the state include a Jersey Shore business that sold masks at a 600% markup, a Bergen County pharmacy that peddled at-home antibody tests and several other merchants who jacked up prices on bottled water, rice and other essentials, authorities announced Monday.
Performance Supply LLC made “false and misleading statements in advertising N95 mask respirators for sale to personnel from the New York City Office of Citywide Procurement,” New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.
The Manalapan-based business “misleadingly suggested the company is an authorized dealer or distributor for 3M Company and offered to sell seven million face masks that retailed between $1.02 and $1.31 for $6.05 and $6.35 each,” Grewal said.
Two other businesses were cited for making false or unsubstantiated claims in the sale of COVID-19 antibody tests, the attorney general said.
Hudson Drug of Cresskill was fined $3,000 for advertising that the COVID-19 antibody tests it sold were suitable for at-home use, contrary to the manufacturer’s instructions, he said.
Retro Fitness of Rockaway was fined $2,000 making unsubstantiated claims related to antibody testing made available to club members via a health and wellness center affiliated with the club, Grewal added.
State authorities have followed up on complaints from residents of “unconscionable” practices, the attorney general said.
As a result, those receiving notices of violation from the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs for price gouging on essential items such as bottled water, rice, face masks and disinfectant spray include:
- Bravo Supermarket, Inc., 1567 E. State Street, Trenton, fined $5,750;
- Food Fair La Gran Marqueta, 946-956 Market Street, Paterson , fined $5,250;
- Siya Cash and Carry LLC,175 Tonnelle Avenue, Jersey City, fined $1,750;
- Super Fresh Pine Tree Supermarket, 19 Belleville Avenue, Bloomfield, fined $1,250
- Compare Foods Super Market, 847 Roebling Avenue, Trenton, fined $1,250.
In addition, four merchants received violation notices and were fined $500 each for failing to post selling prices for merchandise such as bottled water, toilet paper and sanitizers (a violation of the state Merchandise Pricing Statute), Grewal said:
- Exxon Gas, 2000 Route 66 East, Neptune;
- News Plus, 138 Baldwin Road, Parsippany;
- Shell, 456 Albin Court, Ridgewood;
- Delta Food Mart, 801 West Elizabeth Avenue, Linden.
“These actions are the latest of many taken by the Division to address the unprecedented number of consumer complaints and referrals received during the current public health emergency,” Grewal said.
“To date,” he said, the Division of Consumer Affairs “has sent 1,884 cease and desist letters to retailers suspected of price gouging and other unconscionable business practices during the coronavirus pandemic and issued 110 subpoenas seeking additional information in its investigations of alleged violations of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, we made clear that we would take a tough stand on price gouging and other abuses of New Jersey consumers,” Grewal emphasized.
“Most businesses are following the law,” he said. “For those that are not, these actions are a reminder that the penalties for violations are significant.”
New Jersey’s price-gouging law prohibits excessive price increases during the state of emergency declared by Gov. Phil Murphy in March and for 30 days after he terminates it.
“Excessive” is defined as more than 10% higher than the price charged during the normal course of business prior to the state of emergency.
State authorities have asked consumers who suspect consumer fraud violations, or believe that businesses have unfairly increased their prices in response to COVID-19 file complaints online .
“Photographs of items being sold, their price, and receipts can now be uploaded to our new price gouging complaint form,” Grewal said.
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