More than 100 complaints alleging price gouging have been filed since the state’s anti-profiteering law was triggered by the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency related to COVID-19. In the first two weeks since the state of emergency went into effect on March 12 the Kansas Attorney General’s office had received 107 price gouging complaints. Some of those complaints have been referred to local prosecutors and others have been assigned to investigators within the attorney general’s office for follow up.
"The price gouging law is designed to prohibit profiteering from a disaster by unjustifiably raising prices of goods and services needed by the public," said Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt. "We are reviewing every complaint and investigating those that show a possible violation of the law."
The anti-profiteering law, which is enforced by the attorney general and county and district attorneys, generally prohibits unjustifiably raising prices for goods and services for which consumer demand is likely to increase because of the virus outbreak. A price increase is presumed unjustified if it exceeds by 25 percent or more the price at which the goods or services were available on March 11 or the price for which the same goods or services are available from other sellers in the trade area.
Examples of consumer goods and services governed by the anti-profiteering law include, but are not limited to, food items, sanitary and cleaning supplies such as hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, emergency supplies, medical supplies and services, lodging, and any other property or service for which consumer demand may increase in response to the virus outbreak.
The law was enacted in response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and is codified at K.S A. 50-6,106. It carries a penalty of up to $10,000 per violation. It is only in effect during a disaster declaration.
Anyone with information about price-gouging in violation of the anti-profiteering law should file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division online on a newly designed form specifically covering COVID-19-related price gouging, available along with other resources about the state’s response to the outbreak, at ag.ks.gov.
Consumers may also call (800) 432-2310 to request a paper complaint form be sent by mail.