Since the outbreak of COVID-19, basic staples such as hand sanitizer, dried pasta and toilet paper have been in short supply, with many stores completely sold out of such necessities. But thanks to Idaho law, shoppers are protected from excessive price hikes that attempt to take advantage of the situation.
Idaho Attorney General Lawrence Wasden reminded businesses in a public announcement on March 13 that Idaho’s price gouging statute is now in effect. This law prohibits selling fuel, food, drugs or water at an exorbitant price during a declared state of emergency.
Gov. Brad Little signed an emergency declaration for the state Friday morning, and President Donald Trump declared a national state of emergency Friday afternoon. A state or federal emergency declaration triggers the Idaho law.
“My office is committed to ensuring businesses do not use this state of emergency to exploit consumers,” Wasden said. “I encourage Idaho businesses to treat their neighbors fairly in the marketplace. Idahoans who see activities to the contrary should report instances of price gouging to my office.”
Idaho’s price gouging statute falls within the Idaho Consumer Protection Act, which protects consumers and businesses from unfair competition and deceptive practices. The attorney general and private individuals enforce the act through civil court actions.
Factors the Office of the Attorney General considers when evaluating whether a business may have engaged in price gouging include:
- The price the seller paid for the fuel, food, drugs or water compared to the price at which they’re sold to the consumer immediately before and after the declared state of emergency
- Additional business costs the seller incurs because of the declared state of emergency
- Duration of the emergency.