Price gouging, illegal evictions: Virginia attorney general busy with COVID-19 complaints

Coronavirus

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — It didn’t take long for price gougers to emerge during the COVID-19 crisis.

Less than two months into a heightened need for sanitizing and product shortages, Attorney General Mark Herring (D-Virginia) says his office has already received more than 400 complaints.

“These people have used this time to try to line their pockets,” Herring said in a Wednesday morning interview.

Herring says the items usually involve cleaning supplies, paper towels, wipes. He’s received complaints from all over the commonwealth, but would not give specific examples because complaints are confidential.

The penalty for price gouging can be steep.

“It’s significant enough so nobody who’s even entertaining the idea should try it. It’s wrong morally and it’s illegal and it’s not gonna be tolerated,” Herring said.

The fine can be as high as $2,500 per sale, so if a gouger has multiple customers, the fines can add up quickly.

Virginia law doesn’t have a gouging “formula” — only a benchmark that a price is considered “unconscionable.” That varies case by case.

Separately, if you’re facing eviction because of COVID-19, Herring says to tell your landlord you don’t have to leave during the crisis.

“We have gotten some complaints about some landlords sending out notices that they plan to proceed with an eviction,” Herring said. “In those instances, we have contacted the landlords to let them know during this judicial emergency that they can’t do that.”

And don’t fall for any internet scams claiming to be able to cure the virus.

“There is no cure for coronavirus, there is not a vaccine, so if you get one of those, especially on social media or online, it is a scam,” Herring said.

Herring also wants to remind anyone who’s staying at home in an abusive relationship to reach out to the Sexual and Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-838-8238.


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