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Is Price Gouging a Crime in Colorado?

From hand sanitizers to toilet paper, certain items are in significant demand because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Panic buying in Colorado has led to empty shelves in grocery stores, while these items are unavailable online or perhaps back in stock in the next few months. 

The high demand for essential products has also resulted in substantial price increases and many complaints received from the state’s Attorney General’s Office. Significantly raising the price of a product or service above either the price it was originally sold before governmental emergency declarations were made or the price established by other reputable sellers for the same product or service is known as price gouging.  

The following are common items associated with price gouging during the coronavirus outbreak: 

  • Cleaning and disinfectant products 
  • Hand sanitizers and soap 
  • Toilet paper 
  • Medical and N95 masks 
  • Certain medications 
  • Baby products 
  • Other basic or essential food, medical, or personal supplies 

While there is no criminal law against price gouging in Colorado, taking advantage of a statewide emergency by raising the price of essential goods and services could be construed as an unfair business act or practice under the Colorado Consumer Protection Act. According to the law, price gougers could be liable for civil damages, restitution, injunctive relief, restraining orders, and other penalties. 

Government officials have been working closely with online retailers like Amazon and social media platforms with marketplace features like Facebook to report individuals and businesses engaging in price gouging. However, it is important to understand that increasing the prices of certain goods and services is not always considered price gouging. 

The Attorney General must address the following factors when determining if price gouging occurred: 

  • The price charged by the seller accused of price gouging compared to either the price of the item or service before the change or the price issued by another seller for a similar item or service. 
  • Additional costs associated with the supply chain 
  • Additional costs due to the emergency declaration 

If you have been accused of fraud or another type of crime in Denver, contact the Law Office of L. Owen, Jr. Today at (303) 622-3281 and schedule a free consultation.