Coronavirus in DC Area

DC Convenience Store Accused of Price Gouging During State of Emergency

“Price gouging in a time of a public health emergency is illegal, and the Office of the Attorney General will enforce the law against stores like Helen Mart that flatly refuse to adhere to a cease and desist letter that it received from my office"

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A D.C. convenience store is being sued for price gouging after the price of Clorox was found to be marked up 200 percent.

On April 22, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) discovered Helen Mart in Northeast D.C. was selling a 121-ounce bottle of Clorox for $12.99 while other local retailers sold it for about $4.29.

The store was handed a cease and desist letter ordering the prices be brought back down within 24 hours. It refused to comply, according to the OAG.

“Price gouging in a time of a public health emergency is illegal, and the Office of the Attorney General will enforce the law against stores like Helen Mart that flatly refuse to adhere to a cease and desist letter that it received from my office,” said Attorney General Karl A. Racine in a statement.

An investigator confirmed the prices had still not been brought back down a few days later on April 29.

“In light of that we had no choice but to file a complaint, and that’s why we’re in court today,” Racine said.

A woman who identified herself as a manager at the store Monday told News4 the price has been lowered.

There have been more than 120 price gouging complaints across the District and 23 cease and desist letters sent out to local stores since March 11. This is the first lawsuit.

The maximum penalty for price gouging during the pandemic is $5,000 per offense, Racine said.

“Residents who believe they are being overcharged should contact OAG. My office will file lawsuits to stop retailers from taking advantage of consumers’ urgent health needs during this crisis,” said Racine in the statement.

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