Price Gouging During a Pandemic: The Federal Government’s Response

Marissa Rydzewski


On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. Two days later, the US president declared a state of emergency in Proclamation No. 9994. One of the many problems that arise with a public health crisis is the shortage of essential medical supplies like ventilators, masks, and hand sanitizer. When these items become scarce, some businesses or entrepreneurs try to inflate their prices to make a higher profit when they know they can still sell these necessary items. These high costs on goods during disasters or emergencies can seem unfair and make it difficult for those who need them able to afford them. During these stressful times, it’s important for Americans to recognize and report price gouging when they suspect fraudulent activity when purchasing items. Where do people find the authority on anti-price gouging laws? Typically, it is each state’s responsibility, however, in times of crisis, the federal government could also do what is necessary to protect the public interests. This paper will assist people in understanding what price gouging is, how to recognize when price gouging is occurring, and how to report it. Additionally, this paper will address what responsibility the federal government has to protect Americans from price gouging schemes in times of crisis and what it is currently implementing to prevent these fraudulent actions.

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