The New York City Department of Consumer and Worker Protection announced that it is declaring face masks temporarily in short supply, in order to prevent stores from overcharging for them.  The declaration, which went into effect yesterday, makes it illegal for stores to drastically increase prices on face masks.  

DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas said, "Preying on people who are concerned for the health of themselves and their loved ones for a profit will not be tolerated in NYC.  As we started to see empty shelves and more stores charging hundreds of dollars, we knew the City had to step in to prevent price gouging."

Under the Rules of the City of New York, the DCWP Commissioner can declare certain items temporarily in short supply during "extraordinary circumstances."  The declaration remains in effect for thirty days, unless it is terminated or extended.  Once an item has been declared in short supply, stores may not: 

  • Increase prices in excess of an amount reflecting normal market fluctuations; 
  • Require customers to purchase another item in order to get the item in short supply (unless the requirement was in place before the shortage); 
  • Require the purchase of a minimum quantity of the item in short supply; 
  • Fail to give all consumers an equal opportunity to purchase ht item in short supply.

With heightened concerns over the coronavirus, we should expect that price gouging will receive addition focus from regulators and retailers.  As we reported recently, Amazon recently removed more than one million products for price gouging or for making false health-related claims.