Coronavirus Illinois: No enforcement taken against businesses accused of price gouging since COVID-19

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Illinois Attorney General's Office has told the ABC 7 I-Team that it has received nearly 1,200 complaints related to price gouging since the COVID-19 pandemic started.

However, the AG's office said, so far, it hasn't needed to take enforcement action against any businesses.

The AG's office said it follows-up on complaints by contacting different businesses to address complaints with the owners.

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Annie Thompson, a spokeswoman for the AG's office, said businesses have been "cooperative" once their office contacts them about a complaint.

In his first one-one-one interview since the global pandemic started, Illinois Attoney General Kwame Raoul told ABC 7's Samantha Chatman that 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 AG's office said they take a number of factors into account when looking into a business that is accused of price gouging, like supplier costs and employee retention.

Thompson told the I-Team "While we have not taken enforcement at this point, we won't hesitate to use our authority for businesses using unlawful practices during this period."

It's unclear if business related to the nearly 1,200 complaints were in fact engaging in price gouging practices, but for now, no action from the state has been taken.

Full statement provided by the Illinois Attorney General's Office: We are working to address the approximately 1,262 price gouging complaints our office has received as efficiently as possible. Assessing penalties for unlawful pricing requires that a lawsuit must be filed in court. We are focused on assisting residents through this crisis by stopping any unlawful price gouging right away. To that end, we are contacting businesses directly, requesting evidence to show that price increases are justified, and getting businesses to agree to change their conduct. We are pleased that businesses have been cooperative. While we will not hesitate to address egregious, unlawful conduct though a formal litigation process when necessary, our priority is assisting consumers by first taking more expeditious actions outside of the court.

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