Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced today that his office has shut down price gouging efforts at Nature’s Garden in Exeter Township.
“We won’t tolerate illegal price gouging during this emergency, and we’re taking action every day to stop it—here in Reading and across Pennsylvania. Pennsylvanians need security and financial protection right now, especially when so many have lost wages and 30 percent of our residents are out of work.” said Attorney General Shapiro.
“You have a right in Pennsylvania to purchase life-saving goods at reasonable prices in times like these. If you see suspicious price increases on products like groceries and medicine, I encourage you to email firstname.lastname@example.org and fill out a complaint form so we can put a stop to price gouging.”
The Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General entered into an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) with Nature’s Garden after the Office received tips alleging that the store was selling facemasks for unlawful prices. The Office learned that Nature’s Garden sold 28 two-packs of facemasks for $23.95 per pair.
Under the Price Gouging Act, a price increase of more than 20 percent during a declared state of emergency is considered price gouging. The AVC requires Nature’s Garden to pay $1,400 in civil penalties, in addition to restitution of $224.00 for consumers who purchased the facemasks.
Nature’s Garden also agreed to fully comply with all provisions of the Pennsylvania Consumer Protection Law and Price Gouging Act moving forward.
Consumers who purchased facemasks from Nature’s Garden may be eligible for restitution if they paid more than they should have. In order to be considered for restitution, consumers should file a consumer complaint form and attach a copy of their receipt showing they purchased the facemasks between March 6, 2020 and June 8, 2020. Complaints must be submitted by August 9, 2020 to be considered.
In a statement, Nature’s Garden says they were price gouged by their overseas mask supplier. They paid for the order of masks as they thought it was essential to make them available to the community. In selling them, Nature’s Garden says they charged an inflated price due to the additional cost to acquire the masks.
“In Pennsylvania, it is the technical act of price gouging if an item is sold during a state of emergency for a price 20% more than its price prior to the state of emergency. Therefore, due to the excessive price we needed to pay to acquire the masks for our community, we were in technical violation of the law. Fortunately, we resolved the matter with the Attorney General’s Office through an agreement, which includes our agreement to issue a refund for customers who purchased the masks through the Attorney General’s Office. We also agreed to fully cooperate with the Attorney General’s Office in any investigation of the overseas supplier of the masks. We hope that the Attorney General’s Office will follow-through with such an investigation.” said the statement from Nature’s Garden.