People are trying to profit from COVID-19 with questionable pricing, products

Posted at 4:43 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-19 16:43:25-04

CLEVELAND — As we are all trying to protect ourselves from the Coronavirus, some people are trying to take advantage of our fears. We found questionable pricing and products offered by people trying to make a buck off of COVID-19.

We searched sites like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, Offer-Up and more. One ad on Offer-Up showed one surgical mask selling for $20.

On eBay there were lots of Lysol products. Some were selling 1 package of wipes for $50 and others had it at 2 for $100. There were some “bargains” including one package being sold in Chesterland for $40.

“You need to be more vigilant now than ever,” said Sue McConnell. She’s the CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Greater Cleveland. “We actually got a call from a local mayor who had a call from one of his constituents about price gouging at some local stores,” said McConnell.

Our search online showed one small, 2 oz bottle of hand sanitizer going for $100. There were 5 rolls of toilet paper selling for $1,000.

“Price gouging is certainly unconscionable in these times,” said McConnell. But the Ohio Attorney General’s Office sent us a list of price-gouging complaints from across the state.

5 On Your Side Investigators also noticed Colloidal Silver being sold on various sites like Craigslist. It’s been marketed by some as a solution to coronavirus. There was an ad from Cleveland that mentioned coronavirus.

“I was looking for Paul. Is he available?” we asked as we contacted the seller. He told us he was willing to sell. “So, you’re saying that the Colloidal Silver with help choke out a virus?” we asked him.

The National Institutes of Health reported there is no scientific evidence that Colloidal Silver helps with any disease or condition. In fact, it can turn your skin a bluish-gray. “If you are looking online for a quick fix to this, for a cure or preventative, those do not exist,” said McConnell.

So, whether it’s pricey products like $50,000 for toilet paper or people convinced they have a solution despite FDA and FTC warnings, you have to be careful.

Just today Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced he is working with state lawmakers to strengthen ant-price gouging laws. Here’s the news release sent to us by his office:
“(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Attorney General Dave Yost today announced plans to seek a new anti-price gouging law that does not rely on price controls when the Ohio General Assembly meets next week. “I’m outraged that anybody would try to profiteer on a crisis, particularly on items that are necessary for the health and safety of Ohioans,” Yost said. His office is already working on draft language that would address weaknesses in Ohio’s existing laws. The Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has received more than 150 complaints of price gouging this month amid the coronavirus pandemic. Yost said his office is reviewing every complaint and is actively working with members of the business community and trade associations to protect consumers. While Ohio does not have a statute that deals directly with price gouging, state law bans unconscionable sales practices. A practice could be considered unconscionable if the business knew at the time of the sale that the price was substantially higher than normal or if the business dramatically increased the price of in-stock products based solely in response to current events. “We don’t have a price gouging law in Ohio because we believe in free markets, but free markets don’t include the idea of holding toilet paper and surgical masks hostage,” Yost said. This type of harmful marketplace behavior may also constitute a violation of the Valentine Act, Ohio’s antitrust law. Enforcing the current laws can be challenging, Yost said, because they do not define unconscionable practices as they relate to price gouging. The proposed changes aim to fix that. “We need a law that can tell the difference between someone who’s price gouging and somebody who’s reacting to normal price pressures of the market,” Yost said. Ohioans who suspect unfair business practices should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at [] or 1-800-282-0515.”

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