Price Gouging Frequently Asked Questions

Information on Price Gouging during COVID-19 Pandemic

 

As we all continue to cope amidst this unprecedented public health crisis, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office (CCSAO) would like to remind you to be cautious of unscrupulous businesses or companies that may target and prey on consumers by charging excessively high prices for goods and services during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

It is unlawful to charge excessively high prices for goods and services during a state-declared disaster.  Price gouging causes substantial injury to consumers by needlessly increasing the cost of goods and services necessary to treat or prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus and making such items less available for use by the general public.

 

Cook County residents are encouraged to report incidents of price gouging to the CCSAO by calling 312-603-8600 or by filling out a price gouging complaint form.

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What is price gouging?

 

How does Emergency Disaster Proclamation issued by Governor Pritzker on March 9, 2020 affect the prices for goods and services in Illinois?

 

Is a price gouging ban in effect in Illinois at the present time?

 

Does the ban on price gouging mean that a seller cannot raise prices during an emergency?

 

Does the ban on price gouging only apply to medical supplies, protective equipment, and medications? 

 

How can I report price gouging?

 

What can happen if a person or business commits price gouging in Illinois?

 

 

Q.  What is price gouging?

 

A.  During a statewide emergency, the prices charged for goods and services sold within Illinois may not exceed the prices ordinarily charged for comparable goods and services at, or immediately before, the time of the state of emergency, unless the price by the seller is attributable to fluctuations in commodity markets, regional or national market trends, or to reasonable expenses, charges, and risks incurred in procuring or selling the goods or services.  

 

This means that the prices of goods and services are prohibited from being raised during a state of emergency unless the increases are directly related to a rise in the cost of doing business.

 

 

Q.  How does the Emergency Disaster Proclamation issued by Governor Pritzker on March 9, 2020 impact the prices for goods and services in Illinois? 

 

A.  Under the Emergency Management Agency Act (20 ILCS 3305 et seq.), Governor Pritzker’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 9 had the effect of granting certain emergency powers to the governor. Specifically, under 20 ILCS 3305/7(14), the governor is empowered to prohibit increases in the prices of goods and services during a disaster. 

 

Section 9 of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation explicitly prohibits increases in the selling price of goods or services, including medical supplies, protective equipment, medications and other commodities intended to assist in the prevention of, or treatment and recovery of, COVID-19 in the State of Illinois while the proclamation is in effect. 

 

Q.  Is a price gouging ban in effect in Illinois at the present time?

 

A.  Yes. The Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation bans price gouging. It became effective on March 9, 2020 and remains in effect for at least 30 days.  

 

Q.  Does the ban on price gouging mean that a seller cannot raise prices during an emergency?

 

A.  No. Illinois law does not freeze prices during an emergency. Wholesalers and retailers may increase prices if the increase in price charged by the seller is attributable to local, regional, or national market trends and fluctuations, or to reasonable expenses and charges for a business’s risk incurred in obtaining or selling the goods or services during the state of

emergency.

 

Q.  Does the ban on price gouging only apply to medical supplies, protective equipment, and medications? 

 

A.  No. It is the opinion of the CCSAO that the price gouging prohibition covers all goods, services, and commodities intended to assist in the prevention of, or treatment and recovery of, COVID-19. 

 

Q. How can I report price gouging?

 

A.  If you believe you are a victim of price gouging, please contact the CCSAO Consumer Fraud Unit at 312-603-8600 or fill out a price gouging complaint form to initiate a complaint. The Consumer Fraud Unit may be able to help you recover your losses, prosecute the person or business responsible for the price gouging, and prevent other members of the public from falling victim to the same misconduct. In some cases, you will be asked to file a written complaint, and in other situations, you may be referred to another government agency or resource.  

 

Q. What can happen if a person or business commits price gouging in Illinois?

 

A.  The Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act (815 ILCS 505/1 et. seq.) prohibits the charging of excessively high prices during a state-declared emergency or disaster.  Upon a violation, the CCSAO may bring a lawsuit for a court order to enjoin or restrain the continuance of the alleged price gouging.    

The Court may impose a civil penalty in an amount not to exceed $50,000 against any person or business found to have engaged in price gouging or $50,000 per violation for more serious intentional violations. The Court may also impose, where appropriate, an order for a refund for any consumer victim.