Coronavirus Illinois: IL Attorney General Kwame Raoul addresses price gouging, hoarding complaints amid COVID-19 crisis

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The coronavirus pandemic has led to complaints about price gouging at stores across the state of Illinois.

Many consumers say they've seen prices soar on certain products.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul says he does not take price gouging lightly and if a store is caught doing it, there could be stiff consequences.

Several consumers have called the ABC7 I-Team after spotting what they call price gouging in local stores across the Chicago area and online, with toilet paper rolls being sold for 59.99 and $11.99 for a 24 pack of bottled water.

Attorney General Raoul says his office has so far received 526 complaints related to price gouging during the COVID-19 crisis.

He says in some cases, retailers are able to explain and defend why their prices may have gone up. But if he finds that a retailer is in fact participating in price gouging and they're not willing to stop, that's when the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act comes in.

"Each instance can carry a fine of up to $50,000 and we can also seek injunctive relief from the court," Raoul said.

The attorney general says there's also concern over stockpiling or hoarding of products.

"You're only going to go to the bathroom so many times. You only need so much toilet paper. There is no need for you to buy all the toilet paper on the shelf. You have to think of your neighbors, think of seniors," Raoul said. "I would suggest to people, plan a trip to the grocery store to buy what you need for a certain period of time and don't try to go the grocery store on a daily basis. That increases the risk for everybody out here,"

He says many grocery stores have also turned into places people visit on a daily basis as a result of the shelter in place order.

To file a complaint about price gouging with the attorney general, visit llinoisattorneygeneral.gov or call 1-800-386-5438.

The Cook County State's Attorney's Office will also investigate and, if necessary, prosecute harmful price gouging practices.

"Taking advantage of consumers - especially during a public health crisis - is wrong. And charging excessively high prices for goods and services during a state-declared disaster is illegal," a spokesperson for the office said. "Price gouging harms people by needlessly increasing the cost of goods and services necessary to treat or prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and making those items less available for the general public."

For more information on how to file a complaint with the Cook County state's attorney, visit the office's website.
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