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Marshall warns Alabamians against illegally profiting off of the public health emergency

Attorney General Steve Marshall speaks on a proposed rewrite of the state ethics laws. (Chip Brownlee/APR)

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Thursday warned that those who seek to illegally profit from State Public Health Emergency that Alabama’s price-gouging Law is in effect.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey declared a state Public Health Emergency on March 13 in Alabama relating to the appearance of the 2019 novel coronavirus.

Alabama’s price gouging law comes into effect when the governor declares the State of Emergency, and it prohibits the “unconscionable pricing” of items for sale or rent.

“Alabamians should be on guard against those who would seek to prey upon them through price gouging of commodities and services for consumption or use as a direct result of the public health emergency,” said Attorney General Marshall. “Furthermore, those who seek to profit during this time of emergency through price gouging will be subject to the law.”

What constitutes an unconscionable price is not actually defined in the state law. Despite this, a price that is 25 percent or more above the average price charged in the same area within the last 30 days — unless the increase can be attributed to a reasonable cost in connection with the rental or sale of the commodity is considered to be a prima facie case of unconscionable pricing according to Marshall. The penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 per violation, and those determined to have willfully and continuously violated this law may be prohibited from doing business in Alabama.

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When news of the virus shutdown reached the public, numerous Americans responded with buying all the essential supplies that they could.

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Essential items including canned meat and vegetables, pork, beef, chicken, milk, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, bleach, and toilet paper were purchased in bulk quantities even though there was no reason to believe that the supply chain would shut down. Stores ran out of products and panicked shoppers are still buying up goods in excessive quantity as it hits the shelves, though some stores have now put in rules to prevent hoarding.

The demand for some of these items remains high.

There are reports coming in of some cases of alleged price gouging.

One woman told the Alabama Political Reporter that she was charged $16 for a package of toilet paper by one local pharmacy.

“I paid it, because I needed it; but it was not right,” she said.

Alabamians who want to file an illegal price gouging report are encouraged to do so via the Alabama Attorney General’s Consumer Interest Division web link.

You can also call in your complaint at 1-800-392-5658 to receive a form by mail to complete and return.

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You may also write the Alabama Attorney General’s Office, 501 Washington Avenue, Montgomery, Alabama, 36130.


Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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