Can You Face Criminal Charges For Price Gouging?
With so many people stocking up on supplies due to fear of spreading COVID-19, some people are curious to know if they can be charged with a crime like price gouging if they then try to sell those supplies. Some people may believe it is merely an issue of supply and demand, but when it comes to shortages on private goods, there is a lot to think about.
Could you face criminal charges? Read on to learn more.
What Is Price Gouging?
Price gouging refers to selling goods and services at a higher markup. Some people looking to profit in the wake of the pandemic have tried to sell items like toilet paper on eBay and other websites at prices that are hundreds of percentages above the cost to buy the items in the store. The problem? Those items are difficult to find in stores in some areas, which forces people to pay way more for the items than they otherwise would.
In many areas, price gouging is illegal. It does not have to be a store or business that is found to have engaged in these behaviors either. A regular person selling items out of their garage may also face charges associated with price gouging.
What Does Price Gouging Refer To?
Often, the laws apply to only some items. Those items include food, drinks, pet food, emergency supplies, certain baby supplies, medical supplies, construction items, batteries, and other emergency supplies. These are supplies you might consider "essential." Price gouging laws also apply to certain services, including storage and transportation. Each region may have a certain percentage of the original cost you are not allowed to charge for goods and services.
What Are the Consequences of Price Gouging Convictions?
If you are convicted of price gouging, you may face some serious consequences. For instance, you may be sentenced to some time in jail as well as some heavy fines. In a time like this, you certainly do not want to spend time in a confined space with others. The economic impact of COVID-19 also means that you likely don't want to be stuck with those heavy fines and financial penalties.
What Should You Do If You Are Accused?
If you are accused of price gouging, you should hire an attorney. A criminal defense attorney will ensure that you are legally protected and represented. An attorney can also help you determine if the prices you intend to charge are legal in your neck of the woods.