Editor’s Note: With the first confirmed case of the coronavirus in Mohave County, the Better Business Bureau felt it was important to get this information out to the public.
The relationship between businesses and consumers is increasingly important during a pandemic. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns businesses against raising prices for critical items, not just because it is illegal, but because consumers are impressionable and looking to trustworthy businesses at this time of crisis. Amidst recent progressions of the coronavirus, consumers are experiencing an increase in price gouging and misleading claims.
Price gouging refers to significantly increased prices on goods. Businesses may elevate prices for products to take advantage of consumers who are looking to secure necessities, including masks, disinfectants, food, and other essential supplies. During a declared state of emergency, it is illegal for businesses to raise the price of essential goods or services by more than 10 percent, unless it can be shown that business costs are substantially increased. The BBB is seeing an increase in consumer complaints for deceptive offers and price gouging.
“Businesses play a crucial role in maintaining a strong community in challenging times and should follow ethical advertising practices,” said Michael Sedio, VP and General Counsel at the Better Business Bureau. “At this time, transparent and honest communication is imperative.” Communications with consumers should include updates on necessary business protocol to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19. Businesses should be honest with consumers regarding timelines and product availability, set clear expectations, and communicate immediately as information becomes available.
Scammers are contacting consumers through phishing emails that solicit products claiming to cure COVID-19, at the expense of the consumer’s personal or financial information. Headlines are used to prey on fear and create a sense of urgency that pressures the consumer into acting without thorough research.
Be a savvy consumer. Only make purchases through reputable websites, and before sharing payment information, make sure the store has a physical address and working phone number. Check bbb.org for reviews and ratings.
Compare pricing. It is important to compare similar products, considering size, model numbers and manufacturers.
File a Price Gouging Complaint. Provide as much detail as possible. Include the business name, address, and the names of any employees involved. Attach documentation in the complaint, such as photos or receipts.
Unethically raising prices and using deceptive advertising and product claims is a violation of BBB’s Standards of Trust, which encourages businesses to build trust through honesty, transparency, and integrity. BBB suggests business owners and community leaders abide by these best practices for operating under current restrictions.
For more information or to schedule an interview with a BBB spokesperson, please contact Kryistyna Hook at 928-302-3701 or kryistyna.hook@@bbbcommunity.org. For more information regarding how the BBB is supporting businesses throughout the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis, visit https://www.bbb.org/coronavirus-business/ and BBB.org/Coronavirus.