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[COVID-19 Outbreak\Human Cost]
Williams: "With a low mortality and a low contract rate, experts estimate that under 20,000 lives could be lost in New York City through this crisis...This is a sobering but clear call to action, one we can and must meet with urgency and purpose."
Photo: YouTube

New York City's Public Advocate, and New York City's borough presidents, release recommendations on how to fight COVID-19 price gouging.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams released a brief today with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. on the dangers and impacts of price gouging practices in New York City on essential products amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The brief also lays out several policy recommendations for combating the practice and protecting New Yorkers.

In the brief, "Price Gouging Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic," the Office of the Public Advocate:

(1) Compares the average original price of everyday essentials to inflated prices of the same products since the beginning of the public health crisis;

(2) Surveyed drug stores citywide to investigate whether, and how much, prices for high-demand items were inflated locally;

(3) Proposes policy and legislative solutions;

(4) Offers resources for checking product prices and availability, and on how to report price gouging to City and State officials.

In response to price gouging, both publicly reported and observed by representatives of his office, the Public Advocate called on the Attorney General and Department of Consumer and Worker Protection to impose a three-strike penalty on gouging, with the first offense leading to a lower fine, the second a maximum, and the third triggering the revoking of the merchant's permits. He further implored the Attorney General and the DCWP to take action against distributors engaged in the practice who then pass the cost to retailers, and subsequently, consumers.

Within New York City, he called for the passage of legislation aimed at combating price gouging on essential items during the current and any future states of emergency, including a tripling of fines, and reporting on price gouging complaints through 311 and Department of Consumer and Worker Protection enforcement actions.

"Price gouging is illegal and unethical. It puts personal greed over public good. And in the midst of this crisis, we have seen it around our city - bad actors taking advantage of New Yorkers in need," said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. "It's clear that further action is needed to stop suppliers and retailers alike from this egregious profiteering against the health and safety of our neighbors, so my office is calling for increased enforcement and penalties on a city and state level, and mandated reporting to show New Yorkers that we are hearing their concerns and taking serious, direct action to protect against these unscrupulous tactics."

The Public Advocate further highlighted available resources for New Yorkers who have witnessed or experienced price gouging firsthand, including contacting the office of Public Advocate directly in addition to reporting incidents to the Attorney General, the Department of Consumer and Worker Protection, and 311.

"Last weekend, the Public Advocate and I went out to a grocery store in East Williamsburg that had been the subject of price-gouging complaints from Brooklynites. We made it very clear to the manager and the public that price-gouging for basic necessities like hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies would not be tolerated under any circumstances, and especially amid the public health crisis we are now facing. We cannot allow anyone to put profits over the health and safety of Brooklynites and people throughout our city. I thank Public Advocate Williams for this robust report, and urge the City and State to adopt stronger measures to combat the scourge of price-gouging in our city," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

"Price gouging unconscionably harms vulnerable communities in this time of crisis. I was proud to join with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams to condemn this practice and support recommendations to tackle the problem," said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

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