Lansing, Mich. (WLNS) — Due to the large influx of consumers reporting price-gouging during the coronavirus pandemic, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office will be extending consumer protection hotline hours into the weekend to answer price-gouging-related calls.
Michigan Legislators will join Attorney General Dana Nessel this weekend in answering calls to her office’s Consumer Protection hotline.
Joining Nessel will be Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, state Sens. Curtis Hertel Jr. and Jeremy Moss, and Reps. Julie Brixie, Christine Greig, Jim Haadsma, Kara Hope, Sheryl Kennedy, Matt Koleszar, Laurie Pohutsky, Yousef Rabhi and Angela Witwer. Also participating will be Wayne County Commissioner David Knezek, who is also Nessel’s director of legislative affairs.
The group will answer calls:
- Noon-1 p.m.: Rabhi and Witwer
- 1-2 p.m.: Haadsma and Hertel
- 2-4 p.m.: Moss and Greig
- 4-5 p.m.: Pohutsky and Brixie
- Noon-2 p.m.: Hope and Kennedy
- 2-4 p.m.: Koleszar and Brixie
- 4-5 p.m.: Knezek
Nessel’s Consumer Protection intake team had received 1,053 price-gouging complaints related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) by 5 p.m. Thursday. That’s up from 75 as of March 13.
“With the upswell in consumer complaints, I’m happy to have the extra help from my friends in the Legislature to answer hotline calls,” Nessel said. “Michigan consumers deserve a government that works for the people, and this is a clear example of lawmakers rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.”
Typically, complaints are received through an online form. However, the Consumer Protection intake team has taken 608 price-gouging complaints by telephone since 11 a.m. Monday, when the Attorney General’s office began taking complaints via phone. There have been 445 electronically submitted complaints related to price-gouging in roughly the past two weeks.
To allow for more efficient response by the Attorney General’s office, consumers are urged to file complaints online. However, hours of operation for the Consumer Protection tip line (877-765-8388) have again been extended to keep up with the high volume of complaints.
The phone lines are generally open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday; however, operations have been extended from noon to 5 p.m. today and Sunday.
“Businesses should know by now that this public health emergency is not a free pass to jack up prices,” Nessel said. “Again, I encourage consumers to continue submitting complaints to my office so we can investigate and enforce Gov. Whitmer’s executive order and the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. This state has rules in place to protect people against price-gouging, and I will use any tool I have at my disposal to hold accountable those who disregard our laws.”
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive order Sunday to specifically address price-gouging related to COVID-19. That order, in part, states no business or person can sell products grossly in excess of the purchase price at which they bought the product. It also says products cannot be sold or offered at a price that’s more than 20 percent higher than what it was listed as of March 9, 2020 – unless the seller can justify the higher price due to an increase in the cost of bringing the product to market.
Meanwhile, legislation introduced in the Michigan Senate by Sens. Moss and Ruth Johnson, and in the Michigan House by Reps. Pohutsky and Mike Mueller would create additional tools for investigators to rein in price-gouging. The bipartisan bills would add price-gouging protections during an emergency declaration or market disruption. Nessel recently stated her support for the legislation.
Michigan residents are urged to report any violation of the Consumer Protection Act online or by calling 877-765-8388.
Information around the COVID-19 outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest public health information is available online at a state website focused on the issue, and at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.