BBB warns of false advertising and price gouging illegality during COVID-19 outbreak


A picture taken on photo on March 16, 2020 shows a shopping cart with toilet paper and mineral water at a supermarket in Dortmund, where activities came to a halt due to the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)

Lansing, Mich. (WLNS) — Better Business Bureaus Serving Eastern and Western Michigan have received several complaints about price gouging in the state of Michigan.

Consumers have been encountering and falling victim to the cost of high-demand items, such as hand sanitizers, tissues, face masks and other products, skyrocketing.

Price gouging is a term referring to when a seller spikes the prices of goods, services or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair and is considered exploitative, potentially to an unethical extent. 

Under an executive order signed by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, no one is allowed to sell any product for more than 20 percent higher than the price charged prior to March 9, 2020, unless the person demonstrates that the price increase is attributable to an increase in the cost of bringing the product to market.

“Unfortunately, during times of emergency, price gouging is not uncommon,” said Melanie Duquesnel, President & CEO of BBB Serving Eastern Michigan. “During a state of emergency, chaos and panic understandably follow. Many times, consumers will purchase the overpriced item for fear of being without the product that’s needed. That’s why it’s so important to report these overpriced items so that action can be taken.”

BBB is warning businesses to avoid the temptation to raise prices during a situation such as a storm or a pandemic because it may be illegal to do so in certain states and because it chips away at marketplace trust.  Consumers will remember which businesses took advantage of them during adversity.

“Not only is price gouging unethical, it is now illegal in the State of Michigan,” says Phil Catlett, President of the BBB Serving Western Michigan. “The BBB, Michigan Attorney General, and other partners are committed to combating price gouging in our communities. We want to hear from consumers and work together to remove these bad actors from the marketplace.”

Anyone who suspects price gouging during a declared state of emergency should report it to Better Business Bureau® by filing a complaint, or to BBB Ad Truth. Consumers have an option to report these activities to the state attorney general’s office

BBB Serving Eastern Michigan & the UP and BBB Serving Western Michigan have created a joint Facebook group for all Michigan residents to report any suspected price gouging in our state.

When reporting a price gouging complaint, gather as much information as safely possible and follow these three tips:

  • Be as specific about the transaction as possible, including the name and address of the business, names of any employees involved, and information detailing the spike in pricing.
  • Gather together documentation supporting the price gouging (receipts, photos of products and their advertised pricing, invoices, etc.)
  • Compare pricing of similar products with other sellers in the area as well as online.  It’s important to note similarities and differences between brands, size/quantity, manufacturers, model numbers, and prices.

Better Business Bureau encourages you to report possible scams to BBB Scam Tracker at For assistance finding reputable businesses please visit

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